By Railfan & Railroad Staff
WASHINGTON — Freight railroads must ensure that 80 percent of Amtrak customers on any given train arrive at their destination within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival to avoid facing fines by the federal government. On Monday, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a final ruling on the performance and service quality of intercity passenger trains, more than a decade after the Association of American Railroads tried to block minimum service standards instituted by Congress.
The final rule requires Amtrak and its host railroads to certify Amtrak schedules, and sets an on-time performance minimum standard of 80 percent for any two consecutive calendar quarters. Other metrics that FRA defines in the final rule include ridership, train delays, station performance, and host running time.
“This final rule is a major accomplishment for this Administration and a huge victory for the traveling public,” Administrator Ronald L. Batory said. “When I personally met with the leaders of Amtrak and the nation’s largest freight railroads earlier this year, I impressed upon them the need for the traveling public to have reliable passenger rail service, and the Administration’s final rule reflects a commitment to improving Amtrak’s performance in the modern-day freight rail environment.”
Any delays would be investigated by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and if it finds that the poor performance was attributable to a failure to provide Amtrak passengers with preference over freight trains, damages and other relief can be awarded. Amtrak officials applauded the move by the FRA.
“This is a victory for Amtrak customers and for anyone who believes people and communities across the country deserve a world-class passenger rail network with schedules that you can count on,” officials said. “For too long, many freight railroads have put their cargo ahead of our passengers – in direct opposition to the law. This rule will help Amtrak enforce its rights when they are violated, in order to get you to your destination on schedule.”