WASHINGTON – Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad have reached an agreement on a performance plan to reduce passenger train delays attributed to track conditions. Under the agreement, Union Pacific will limit speed restrictions that can cause Amtrak trains to fall behind schedule on Union Pacific’s routes.
Union Pacific is the nation’s largest railroad and is one of the three biggest hosts of Amtrak service, including short-distance trains and parts of four overnight routes in the West, Pacific Northwest and Midwest.
Imposing temporary speed restrictions is a common railroad practice. Frequently called “slow orders,” these restrictions are put into effect when track conditions require reduced speeds and are then removed as normal track conditions are restored. On routes with heavy traffic, it is often difficult to make track improvements without affecting schedules.
“This agreement defines in detail the maximum number of minutes of ‘slow order’ delay allowable on each Amtrak route operated on Union Pacific, while Union Pacific makes track improvements that will increase service reliability and satisfaction in the long term,” said Paul Vilter, Amtrak Assistant Vice President, Host Railroads. “On-time performance is the single largest determinant of passenger satisfaction and these changes will make a real difference.”
“This agreement is instrumental in helping our crews complete the necessary track maintenance that will further enhance safe and timely railroad operations in these corridors as well as improved ride quality,” said Tom Mulligan, director of passenger train operations, Union Pacific Railroad.
“These track improvements are part of more than $1 billion Union Pacific is planning to spend in 2007 to maintain its track across the 32,400 mile system,” Mulligan added.
Amtrak corridor routes governed by this agreement with Union Pacific include the Amtrak Cascades (Oregon & Washington); Capitol Corridor Service, Pacific Surfliner Service and San Joaquin Service (California); Lincoln Service (Illinois) and Missouri Mules.
Union Pacific also hosts some or all of the routes of the California Zephyr (San Francisco Bay-Chicago), Coast Starlight (Los Angeles-Seattle), Sunset Limited (Los Angeles-New Orleans) and Texas Eagle (San Antonio-Chicago), which are also covered by this agreement.
In return for Union Pacific’s commitment to limit slow orders, and to allow more accurate passenger expectations and planning, Amtrak is making limited temporary schedule adjustments to the California Zephyr, starting June. The longer schedule will allow improved on-time performance before slow orders have been removed.
“During Union Pacific’s track work on the California Zephyr route, the time added to the schedule corresponds to the minutes of slow orders to be removed, and both will decrease as the work progresses, until we resume our current schedule when the slow orders have been removed,” Vilter said. “Throughout this time, Union Pacific has committed to use the extra time to significantly improve on-time performance.”
Some shortening of the schedule is possible later this year and incremental changes are expected through the end of 2009, as Union Pacific completes track work.
“Our schedule will immediately become more reliable and will continue to improve as Union Pacific finishes its work, largely between Reno and Salt Lake City,” Vilter added.
— Special to Railfanning.org News Wire