Amtrak Calls on STB to Investigate UP Following ‘Sunset Limited’ Delays

AmtrakBy Justin Franz 

WASHINGTON — Amtrak’s Sunset Limited was on average four hours late per trip in the last year because of poor dispatching and freight train interference from Union Pacific, the passenger railroad alleges in a new filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. 

On Thursday, Amtrak called on the federal regulator to investigate UP for decisions that made the New Orleans to Los Angeles passenger train the worst-performing long-distance route on the network. The complaint and petition for an investigation was a rare move by Amtrak, but one the passenger railroad said is necessary to alleviate the Sunset Limited’s problems. Amtrak accuses UP of violating the law by not giving the passenger train the right-of-way over freight. 

Union Pacific“UP has failed to provide Amtrak with its statutory right to preference and has demonstrated an ongoing pattern and practice of imposing delay and (Freight Train Interference) that adversely affects Amtrak’s service,” Amtrak writes. “More specifically, UP has routinely prioritized freight trains over Sunset Limited trains, including when resolving meets and passes, when determining access to main lines, and when otherwise failing to ensure that tracks are available for the scheduled and infrequent transit of Sunset Limited trains. Due in large part to these unlawful practices, the Sunset Limited is currently the worst-performing route for customers on Amtrak’s network.”

In a statement to Railfan & Railroad, UP defended itself, noting that the Sunset Route was an especially busy corridor between Texas and the Pacific Coast.

“It is essential that Union Pacific and Amtrak collaborate to design a schedule that is reasonable and achievable,” said UP spokesperson Robynn Tysver. “We welcome the opportunity to share our efforts with the STB and remain committed to finding a solution that provides excellent service for commuters and freight customers.”

Federal regulation requires that at least 80 percent of all Amtrak customers arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival times. That metric is known as “Customer On-Time Performance” and is tracked on all Amtrak trains. However, during the first fiscal quarter of 2022, the Sunset Limited was only on time 40 percent of the time, and it has dropped even further since. During the third quarter, it was on time just 10 percent of the time and 11 percent during the fourth quarter. 

This article was posted on: December 9, 2022