Durbin Convenes Meeting Between STB, Amtrak and Local Officials to Discuss Record Rail Delays

Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale is Most Delayed Train Route of its Kind in U.S.

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Record levels of freight train interference and poor Amtrak on-time performance are threatening the success of passenger rail in Illinois, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today at meeting between Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Dan Elliott, Amtrak Board of Directors member Tom Carper and local stakeholders. At Durbin’s urging, Elliott is meeting with communities throughout Illinois to discuss the persistent Amtrak delays along routes operated by Canadian National (CN).
Amtrak’s on-time performance has suffered significantly in 2014 along all lines, but none worse than the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route owned and operated by CN. The Illini and Saluki trains are consistently delayed by freight trains, resulting in trains arriving on-time only 49 percent of the time.

“Ridership and revenue are at all-time highs for Amtrak, and unfortunately so are delays. Late trains and unnecessary delays turn passengers away from Amtrak and can slow the incredible growth we have seen so far,” Durbin said. “We’re investing almost $2 billion in federal funds into our passenger rail infrastructure in the state. These funds are building new locomotives and train cars that will be used here in Champaign and the across the Midwest. We cannot let these investments go to waste due to unnecessary freight train interference. Canadian National’s lack of cooperation with the State of Illinois and Amtrak is disappointing and I encourage them to step up and make the changes necessary to improve Amtrak service.”

In 2008, Durbin helped pass legislation that gave STB the authority to enforce Amtrak’s rights to the rails. Last month, Durbin called on the STB to exercise its authority to investigate the causes of Amtrak delays and enforce on-time performance standards. Earlier this month, Durbin wrote to Amtrak’s president and CEO Joseph Boardman and its board chairman, Anthony Coscia, asking for a study to increase the number of trains along the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale line.

Durbin also wrote CN CEO and President Claude Mongeau in June, calling on the rail company to address ongoing safety and traffic issues including: CN’s lack of cooperation with the State of Illinois and Amtrak, which has hindered efforts to expand rail service in Northern Illinois between Galena and Rockford; increased rail traffic that has resulted in a record rate of blocked rail crossings; and CN’s refusal to work with local communities to resolve safety issues.

In January 2012, Amtrak filed a complaint before the STB about CN’s interference with the on-time performance of Amtrak trains on the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale corridor. This was the first ever on-time performance complaint filed with STB since the 2008 Amtrak Reauthorization law. Amtrak and CN have tried mediation conducted by the STB to resolve the situation but OTP has continued to decline and CN has been more recalcitrant in the face of the recent D.C. Circuit Court decision invalidating the on-time performance metrics. Amtrak has said it will re-open the case and ask the STB to rule on their case. Amtrak will file a thorough argument to the STB by August 23rd.