A Conductor Comments on Empire Builder Delays.

Amtrak has added between 90 minutes and three hours to the schedule of the Empire Builder in an effort to regain some semblance of on-time performance. As we all know, that train has been running many hours late because of freight congestion occurring across North Dakota. On March 27, the St. Paul Star-Tribune ran a story reporting in the Empire Builder’s new schedule. What follows is a comment that appeared in response to the online version of that article. The person responsible for the comment was identified only as “MNConductor”. I don’t necessarily endorse this point of view; I do find it provocative and worthy of consideration.
“Those of us who actually work in the railroad industry know what’s really happening: The General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) is recognized by all US railroads as the foundation of railroad operating rules. It’s a basic rule that passenger trains have ABSOLUTE PRIORITY over freight and must not be delayed…period. If they are, the freight railroad over whose tracks Amtrak operates is fined by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
“What BNSF and all the other railroads have known for decades is that violating this rule to move their freight and taking the fine is still more profitable than obeying this GCOR rule! And that’s IF there’s an executive administration even willing to enforce it at all.
“AND WHAT’S MORE, this strategy by the freight railroads has another huge benefit. For decades, Amtrak trains have been abused by the major freight railroads so badly that public opinion has turned against Amtrak, now seen as an outdated and redundant money pit…AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE FREIGHT RAILROADS WANT YOU TO THINK!! And it’s working.
“And now in the post-9/11 US that will see its population double (likely triple) by century’s end, Amtrak is starting to show some profitability, but there’s some sort of financial glass ceiling that is keeping Amtrak from buying new and more reliable equipment and increasing seat capacity past that ceiling – which is the key to profitability.

“And look what’s happening now…Republicans continue to wage jihad on Amtrak while freight railroads delay trains even harder. Imagine that – Republicans and Big Business together against the public good. …