CSX Lands in the Federal Doghouse.
Who’d have thought that the federal government—specifically the Surface Transportation Board—would publicly poke a finger in the eye of one of the Class I railroads?
Who’d have thought that since the STB is, after all, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, a federal department run by Elaine Chao, a Trump appointee and wife of Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Given that, it’s nothing less than astonishing that the STB has sent a letter to CSX castigating the railroad for “deteriorated service” and saying it will no longer tolerate delays to Amtrak trains.
Several long-distance trains operate mostly on CSX track, their progress controlled by CSX dispatchers. There’s no doubt that the on-time performance for all of those trains is pretty sad:
The Cardinal’s on-time performance was 34.6% for the month of June, the last month for which Amtrak has released numbers.
The two Florida trains—the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor were late more than 57% of the time for the 12-month period ending June 30th.
The Lake Shore Limited (CSX track is shown in red in the map above) runs on time less than half the time and it’s OTP for the month of June was just 30.6 percent. And if you think that’s bad, the Capitol Limited scored just 16.7% for that same month.
That’s a pretty terrible record. In fact, it’s actually somewhat worse than those numbers indicate. Amtrak, you see, has set on-time tolerances and for trains traveling routes of 501 miles or more, it’s 30 minutes. In other words, one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains can arrive 29 minutes late and still be considered on-time. (In fairness, I must note that the airlines do the same thing.)
What’s significant about the STB’s action is that is comes just weeks after Hunter Harrison, the new boss at CSX, has implemented his plan to increase the railroad’s profitability. Mostly, it appears that involves cutting payroll and squeezing more productivity out of the remaining employees. Oh yes … and running Amtrak onto sidings whenever it suits him.