By Justin Franz
Union Pacific is still providing “substandard” service to Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, according to recent filings with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.
Last year, Amtrak called on the STB to investigate UP for poor dispatching and freight train interference along the Sunset Limited route. 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.
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 the “Customer On-Time Performance” standard 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. During the third quarter, it was on time just 10 percent of the time and 11 percent during the fourth quarter.
In April, Amtrak filed updated information with the STB stating that while the train’s on-time performance had improved since 2022, it was still lagging. Train 1, the westbound Sunset Limited, was on time 45 percent of the time, and Train 2 was on the advertised 38 percent of the time.
On Friday, the Association of American Railroads got into the mix, filing a letter urging the STB to look at the root reasons for delays, not just the numbers Amtrak was reporting. The group argued that some of the delays might be unavoidable and might not be clear to Amtrak employees on the ground.
“Amtrak’s train delay reports assign responsibility for delays based on conductor observations, but conductors only record the observable, immediate cause of delay ‘out the window,’” attorneys for AAR wrote. “Conductors are not necessarily reporting, nor aware, of what actually caused the supposed interference.”