Don’t Be Quick to Blame Amtrak!
As I write this , I am sitting on train 19 to New Orleans from
Culpepper VA. It’s 12:40 A.M. and we’re sitting behind a
freight train 9 miles from New Orleans. We’re already 3 hours
and 38 minutes late with no end in sight. Don’t EVER use
Amtrak, they are dishonest when they know you’ll never
make your arrival time.
I received this email a couple of nights ago. This guy certainly has the right to be upset. But while the information will eventually be available, I do not know why this particular train on this particulate day is running so far behind schedule. My anonymous e-mailing friend has come to the same conclusion most people do when their train is very late and their plans are disrupted: It’s Amtrak’s fault!
His train, the Crescent, is operating on track owned by one of the freight railroads and it’s very likely that a dispatcher for either CSX or Norfolk Southern or both has simply decided that his company’s train will proceed ahead of Amtrak.
That’s a big problem for Amtrak because there’s a cost in terms of customer goodwill . There’s also an out-of-corporate-pocket cost—estimated at $40 million a year—for hotel rooms and meal vouchers for all those passengers.
That’s the cost to Amtrak, but what about the cost to Amtrak passengers? In 2019, Amtrak’s long-distance trains—just the ones operating outside the Northeast Corridor—were late a total of almost two years!
Just how bad is it? Here are On-Time Performance (OTP) records for a half-dozen of Amtrak’s long distance trains for the month of May, 2021.
Crescent (New York-New Orleans) 33%
Silver Star (New York- Miami via Tampa) 18%
Capitol Limited (Chicago-Washington,DC) 34%
Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland 43%
Southwest Chief (Los Angeles-Chicago) 27%
Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) 21%