6 hour delay between cities 200 miles apart is preposterous!

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HammerJack

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I believe is double tracked from LA to El Paso. At one time UP had grand plans of competing with the BNSF's LA-CHI route (LOL).

Amtrak is part of the problem too. Watch this late SL when it arrives in Tuscon on Youtube. Tuscon is a 50 minute schedule service stop, it takes 20 minutes to refill the Genesis with one fuel truck and for INS to let Rover walk the train, yet watch a 5 hour late SL sit there for 30 minutes more. I wander if Amtrak is as concerned about time as the pax.
Sometimes I do wonder about the sense of urgency of Amtrak crews, specifically on late trains at long stops.

On the flip side, some crews do care. One time I saw a conductor just board everyone (coach and sleepers) at one door to prevent a pull-down move at a station. The sleeper passengers had to walk through the train, but it saved a few minutes time.
 

Seaboard92

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Well if you need examples of railroads that get it right take a look at the Rossiya of Russian Railways No. 1 and 2 Vladivostok-Moscow.

Todays Arriving train in Moscow was ontime into Moscow and at its worst was only 7 minutes late in the Far East. Might I remind you that most of Russia is still in snowy conditions despite being spring. It is possible to run a train on time on the longest railroad in the world with multiple freight, inter-city, and local trains it should be doable here as well.

The problem is strictly because we have torn up our sidings or ran trains longer than can actually fit in the sidings that remain. It is more of a problem of a lack of regulations in our goal for the highest profit margin that causes these delays.
 

daybeers

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Passengers are less of a priority and if they wanted priority, they would fly or drive, use bus, etc.. as other options exist on routes with known freight usage. With that being said, Amtrak needs to either build their own tracks, switches and interlocking and the like or work with partners to build them in areas where freight volume is known to be disruptive rather than blame the freight railroads for their problems.

If you want a real passenger railroad, then there must be passenger railroad tracks on that route and not rely on congested freight tracks. They both can coexist when there are not traffic disruptions.
Hahahaha so even if everyone pays (a teeny portion of) taxes to support Amtrak and priority is legally granted to them, and I paid for a ticket, in order to get priority and not get delayed for several hours I should just give up and drive, fly, or take the bus, all of which are inferior modes IMO? That's hilarious. What if I don't/can't drive? Afraid of flying? Live in a place hundreds of miles from a major airport or interstate? Guess I have to suck it up and sit for hours in a siding while cargo that, as you say, is vastly more important, trundles past me, including actually important cargo like food, and materialistic things like the latest crappily made plastic toy sold at walmart that breaks in a few weeks?

You're right, freight & passenger trains can very much coexist if everyone works together. Unfortunately the working together part has been very one sided for decades.
If Amtrak knows they can’t provide service on a short route and has a long delay, they should have suspended the route by train and arranged for alternative transportation. This is not a prioritization issue at all. If I was a customer, I would have did a credit card chargeback and arranged for alternative transportation myself. But I wouodn’t have blamed freight trains for this. Amtrak knows they are selling service which runs on freight train tracks in many places. They should better communicate this to their own customers.
Yes, they know they are running service of which the vast majority run on freight railroad tracks. For current schedules (not higher/high-speed), that's not an issue as Amtrak trains are legally required to be prioritized by freight railroads in dispatching. So actually, it is a prioritization issue. How could you not blame the freight railroads for not following the law? Amtrak has been sounding the alarm on this for decades and it's only gotten worse since train lengths are longer because all freight railroads care about is profit. They don't care about your UPS packages. They don't care about their customers. They don't care about furloughing their employees. They don't care about maintaining their infrastructure. They don't care about their 2+ mile long trains breaking and causing a whole town to shut down due to road access for hours. They just plain don't care. They're not run by railroaders anymore; they're run by shareholders.
It really depends on the set of assumptions going into the equation. The way freight trains operate today, as noted above, means that in many times, they are longer than certain passing sidings that were built decades ago, when trains were a lot shorter. A freight-only railroad can work around that by "fleeting" the trains for hours at a time, so all trains heading in the same direction operate for a period, then the direction reverses, and trains heading the other way can go. A train going against traffic in this hypothetical situation will kill the capacity on the line if those sidings are unusable.
How is this Amtrak's problem? Why is it my problem as a passenger that a freight railroad is trying to squeeze every penny they can through "efficiency" and thus I am delayed several hours in my travels? Not to mention the hours of padding in the schedules.
Seriously, why should I care if a freight line's capacity decreases for an hour? It didn't decrease a few years ago before PSR implementation, so why should I have to suffer even more delays now because they're running trains longer than their infrastructure supports?
The problem is strictly because we have torn up our sidings or ran trains longer than can actually fit in the sidings that remain. It is more of a problem of a lack of regulations in our goal for the highest profit margin that causes these delays.
YES thank you Seaboard!
 

TrackWalker

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The problem is strictly because we have torn up our sidings or ran trains longer than can actually fit in the sidings that remain. It is more of a problem of a lack of regulations in our goal for the highest profit margin that causes these delays.


The Best of Benny Banks
 
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Seaboard92

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In the USA We put too much interest in shareholder profits than in the quality of the product. Look at Boeing for instance the planes they've made up until the 2010s were fantastic planes. But now they are being forced by shareholders mostly to keep profits increasing and they are cutting corners. It is easier and cheaper to pay a handful of widows every few years when the inferior product falls out of the sky than it is to actually make a quality product.

In the case of the North American class one railroads we are flirting with disaster every day of the year because of how they are managed. Trains are too long for the sidings there are and what happens when you have two of those trains that have to meet. The best way to experience what is wrong with the railroad today is to try the game Train Dispatcher 3. Crossroads Productions has made significant parts of the Canadian's route just try keeping that train on time I promise you it's hard. You get three trains that are all 3,000 ft longer than all but a handful of sidings. You have to figure out just where you can stick trains to get those behemoths over the line into someone else's problem. And often times it is not clean. I might leave a short freight in a siding waiting for clear track space for several hours because I have no other option available to me. When you have all of these 12,000 ft trains.

It's actually forcing more crews to be needed because of the amount of recrews you have to get to the middle of nowhere. Now that being said passenger trains are disrupters to a degree they can go faster than most freights which does cause a problem. Some railroads like BNSF use them in a smart way they run ahead of the Z Trains or the faster intermodal freights clearing the way for those trains to get out and over the road.
 

MARC Rider

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In the USA We put too much interest in shareholder profits than in the quality of the product. Look at Boeing for instance the planes they've made up until the 2010s were fantastic planes. But now they are being forced by shareholders mostly to keep profits increasing and they are cutting corners. It is easier and cheaper to pay a handful of widows every few years when the inferior product falls out of the sky than it is to actually make a quality product.
This is true, but not all shareholders are created equal. And anyone who has heard the phrase "Hollywood accounting" has an idea that the term "profits" are indeed a slippery thing. It's more like there are well-connected shareholders and selected corporate managers who manipulate operating costs and stock prices to maximize their yield at the expense of everyone else involved. In the railroad business, this goes all the way back to the Credit Mobilier scandal of the 1860s, and I suspect the crooks were doing it before then.

Then there are the operators who get control of a company and load it up with debt (with the operators and their cronies having middleman roles that allow them to skim money off of each transaction, whether it's good for the company or not.) Then they bankrupt the company and proceed to sell off the valuable assets, skimming more money off of those transaction costs. If the company is still alive by then, they don't have much in the way resources to offer a quality product. I once spent a dinner at a technical conference listening to a fellow diner who was former Chrysler engineer tell us the whole sad story of Daimler did to them.

So don't blame the poor schlubs who happen to own a few shares of stock, or even the mutual fund managers who bought the stock because they honestly thought the company's performance met the criteria for their investment strategy. It's not all capitalists, it's a select group of "capitalist" crooks who are doing their best to destroy the "free enterprise system." And unfortunately, we have a myth in this country that the "private sector" can always do things better. Maybe, but only if the government watches them like a hawk.
 

Willbridge

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I am not for Amtrak having prioritization on Freight tracks. The model of forcing Amtrak to have prioritization is akin to the telecom industry and forcing alternative providers access to lines already there without deploying new investment for their own lines. Freight is the most important on the freight tracks as even though it may not be time sensitive, it needs to get there as soon as possible. Passengers are less of a priority and if they wanted priority, they would fly or drive, use bus, etc.. as other options exist on routes with known freight usage. With that being said, Amtrak needs to either build their own tracks, switches and interlocking and the like or work with partners to build them in areas where freight volume is known to be disruptive rather than blame the freight railroads for their problems.

If you want a real passenger railroad, then there must be passenger railroad tracks on that route and not rely on congested freight tracks. They both can coexist when there are not traffic disruptions.
While the causes of specific delays can be provided with an explanation, an analysis of the overall patterns will show some companies doing better than others. And, Amtrak provides an excuse for further delays when a train is delayed for mechanical reasons.

What the Class 1's sometimes forget is that Ayn Rand is not running their railway and that they have the right of eminent domain, priority at grade crossings, centrally assessed property taxation in some states, and various tax advantages (especially the change regarding track maintenance that was made in the 1960's that encouraged weedy branch lines). As a voter and taxpayer I go along with this because as a public utility they benefit me. One benefit that they can be really good at is timely dispatching of trains. Amtrak was set up to relieve them of one of their utility responsibilities and that responsibility never goes away unless those benefits are taken away, too.
 
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MARC Rider

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Trains are too long for the sidings there are and what happens when you have two of those trains that have to meet.
If the government was able to force all the Class 1's to install PTC, I don't see why they can't require that they only run trains that can fit the shortest sidings along their route.

Personally, I think something like that should be in the Infrastructure Bill. I think that such a requirement would have far mode supporters than passenger train advocates.
 

Cal

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Seems like UP isn't giving priority to the Sunset still, which is to be expected. It hasn't made up any time
 

west point

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The siding problem is a result of the wall street god of lower operating ratios. How can a RR run PSR when any extra long train gets out of its slot and fouls up the too short sidings ?Yes a RR should not run any train that cannot fit into every siding within 30 minutes. Note did not specify distance but time.
 

Trogdor

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If the government was able to force all the Class 1's to install PTC, I don't see why they can't require that they only run trains that can fit the shortest sidings along their route.

Personally, I think something like that should be in the Infrastructure Bill. I think that such a requirement would have far mode supporters than passenger train advocates.
That would be impractical. On many routes, a random siding might only be 1000-2000 feet, and while technically in service, might only be used in regular operation for occasional equipment storage/setting out a bad-ordered car. So are all trains on that route now supposed to be 1000 feet? Or do they then deactivate a bunch of sidings, which then makes it impossible for the handful of trains that might be that short to use them?

Another factor with the “well just force them to run shorter trains” attitude is that such a move would have consequences across the whole economy. Shipping would become more expensive, meaning the iPhone (or whatever device) you’re reading this message with would become more expensive. The refrigerator in your kitchen would me more expensive. Amazon products would be more expensive and deliveries would take longer (while Amazon doesn’t ship products from their warehouses to your home by rail, many of these products will likely use rail in part of their journey from the manufacturer to the warehouse). Commodities shipped by rail will get more expensive, resulting in higher costs as well. Are these the sorts of tradeoffs the average American is going to want to make?

The obvious answer is to improve the overall infrastructure, and put independent authorities in charge of the infrastructure that has been improved with public funds. Hopefully something like that would be in the infrastructure bill, and not a “run every train as short as possible” rule.
 

jiml

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The model of forcing Amtrak to have prioritization is akin to the telecom industry and forcing alternative providers access to lines already there without deploying new investment for their own lines.
And yet that happens in some jurisdictions - not only with telecom, but with electricity and natural gas, and usually by government decree.
 

jiml

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Amtrak just can't go to another railroad and get different trackage, nor are they funded to just build their own in random places around the country.

Once upon a time, the freight RR's were required to continue running their freight trains because of the public benefit that moving people around the country provides. They were relieved of that responsibility with the creation of Amtrak, but with it came the obligation to host Amtrak and treat them well. They are not living up to that obligation in all cases, and the reaction to that shouldn't be to just let them get away with it and build more infrastructure to work around their malfeasance (in the places where that actually exists).
Nailed it.
 

John Bredin

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That would be impractical. On many routes, a random siding might only be 1000-2000 feet, and while technically in service, might only be used in regular operation for occasional equipment storage/setting out a bad-ordered car. So are all trains on that route now supposed to be 1000 feet? Or do they then deactivate a bunch of sidings, which then makes it impossible for the handful of trains that might be that short to use them?

Another factor with the “well just force them to run shorter trains” attitude is that such a move would have consequences across the whole economy. Shipping would become more expensive, meaning the iPhone (or whatever device) you’re reading this message with would become more expensive. The refrigerator in your kitchen would me more expensive. Amazon products would be more expensive and deliveries would take longer (while Amazon doesn’t ship products from their warehouses to your home by rail, many of these products will likely use rail in part of their journey from the manufacturer to the warehouse). Commodities shipped by rail will get more expensive, resulting in higher costs as well. Are these the sorts of tradeoffs the average American is going to want to make?

The obvious answer is to improve the overall infrastructure, and put independent authorities in charge of the infrastructure that has been improved with public funds. Hopefully something like that would be in the infrastructure bill, and not a “run every train as short as possible” rule.
To your first point, make an exception whereby railroads designate short sidings for short non-freight trains and then enforce it if the railroad repeatedly or routinely sticks freight trains in those designated or exempt sidings.

To your second point, I doubt the object of the hypothesized rule would be to shorten freight trains in the long run but to incentivize the railroads to pry open their pocketbooks to lengthen sidings.

The problem isn't long trains as such but long trains and short sidings, which costs the railroads little because they pass that figurative cost to Amtak in delays. I'm sure the actual dollar cost of lengthening sidings would be less than the bottom-line impact of shorter freight trains, but as it is railroads don't have to pay it. The suggested rule would merely internalize the cost of long-trains-short-sidings so that the railroads can justify the spending on longer sidings to Wall Street cost-hawks.
 
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We can debate this all day, and everyday, but the bottom line is, the "movers and shaker's" mostly don't ride the trains, (outside the NEC), and so the problem is not a priority for most of them. Sorry to be pessimistic, but I can't see this situation being remedied any time in the near future...:(
 

John Bredin

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We can debate this all day, and everyday, but the bottom line is, the "movers and shaker's" mostly don't ride the trains, (outside the NEC), and so the problem is not a priority for most of them. Sorry to be pessimistic, but I can't see this situation being remedied any time in the near future...:(
I've seen political movers & shakers in business class on the Lincoln Service traveling between Chicago and Springfield. I would be surprised if the same wasn't true on the Capitol Corridor in California, and possibly Carolinian-Piedmont service in North Carolina and Cascades to & from Salem. (I'm sure they ride the Keystones and Empire Service, as connecting the big city to the capital is their primary purpose, but those lines are NEC-adjacent.)
 
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I've seen political movers & shakers in business class on the Lincoln Service traveling between Chicago and Springfield. I would be surprised if the same wasn't true on the Capitol Corridor in California, and possibly Carolinian-Piedmont service in North Carolina and Cascades to & from Salem. (I'm sure they ride the Keystones and Empire Service, as connecting the big city to the capital is their primary purpose, but those lines are NEC-adjacent.)
I agree with you on that...I was thinking more like the Sunset, or other long distance trains that suffer the most from freight train interference....
 

Trogdor

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To your first point, make an exception whereby railroads designate short sidings for short non-freight trains and then enforce it if the railroad repeatedly or routinely sticks freight trains in those designated or exempt sidings.
That...makes no sense at all. “Either all trains can use it or no trains can” doesn’t make for practical policy.
 

John Bredin

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That...makes no sense at all. “Either all trains can use it or no trains can” doesn’t make for practical policy.
😳 All-or-none is the opposite of what I'm suggesting. You noted that there are short sidings useful for MOW trains and storing freight cars but would unduly shorten freight trains if a railroad could run no freights longer than its shortest siding. I suggested that such sidings wouldn't count for computing how long freight trains could be, with the railroad free to designate exempt sidings but then compelled to live with its selections and not use the exempt sidings for in-service freight trains.

I don't know how the FRA would enforce that, but I also don't know how they enforce the speed limit, hours-of-service law, etc. I imagine a hefty fine for putting a freight train into an exempt siding -- that the railroad itself would've designated as exempt, mind -- when a railroad is caught doing so would do wonders.
 

Trogdor

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😳 All-or-none is the opposite of what I'm suggesting. You noted that there are short sidings useful for MOW trains and storing freight cars but would unduly shorten freight trains if a railroad could run no freights longer than its shortest siding. I suggested that such sidings wouldn't count for computing how long freight trains could be, with the railroad free to designate exempt sidings but then compelled to live with its selections and not use the exempt sidings for in-service freight trains.

I don't know how the FRA would enforce that, but I also don't know how they enforce the speed limit, hours-of-service law, etc. I imagine a hefty fine for putting a freight train into an exempt siding -- that the railroad itself would've designated as exempt, mind -- when a railroad is caught doing so would do wonders.
Maybe I misunderstood what “enforce it if the railroad repeatedly or routinely sticks freight trains in those designated or exempt sidings” meant.
 

jis

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Maybe I misunderstood what “enforce it if the railroad repeatedly or routinely sticks freight trains in those designated or exempt sidings” meant.
I think John was trying to address the other chronic problem with especially poor dispatch planning, which is that the passing sidings are all filled up with freight trains, some stabled for long durations.

It is difficult to make a hard and fast rule about it since there are extenuating circumstances where doing so at a siding occasionally makes sense. Unfortunately when there is pure adversarial relationship with no trust between two entities, it is quite difficult to run a system efficiently.

Even just by themselves some freight railroads manage to shoot themselves in their own feet and tie themselves into knots even in complete absence of Amtrak on a route. For example NS would have melted down on the Water Level Route even if there was no Amtrak around. The sheer incompetence was palpable.
 
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Seaboard92

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I think John was trying to address the other chronic problem with especially poor dispatch planning, which is that the passing sidings are all filled up with freight trains, some stabled for long durations.

It is difficult to make a hard and fast rule about it since there are extenuating circumstances where doing so at a siding occasionally makes sense. Unfortunately when there is pure adversarial relationship with no trust between two entities, it is quite difficult to run a system efficiently.

Even just by themselves some freight railroads manage to shoot themselves in their own feet and tie themselves into knots even in complete absence of Amtrak on a route. For example NS would have melted down on the Water Level Route even if there was no Amtrak around. The sheer incompetence was palpable.
My personal favorite NS Screw Up happened in 2019 in the spring. They sent their office car special down to the Masters as always. It took four hours to go fifteen miles because their overly long train it had to meet in Fort Mill had trouble setting cars out in Rock Hill, then had a series of mechanical failures. It gets to Columbia 90 miles later and gets the clear out of town. Only to become part of a three train meet at Summit. Where 191 has to pull forward so the office cars can pull into the siding, so 192 can pull out once the office cars were in the clear. Then wait for 191 to back into the siding to let the office cars around. NS just stands for bad railroading these days.
 

The Commissioner

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How much money does a freight railroad make if they get the Amtrak train over the line on time? How much money does the freight railroad lose if their dispatching causes Amtrak to be late?
 

zephyr17

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We are entering a period where the STB will finally be empowered to enforce Amtrak's statutory priority. The recently issued regs, which the railroads fought and lost, require lateness calculations be applied over the entire route, not just endpoints. However, there new regs require that Amtrak and the freight railroads come up with agreed on schedules that reflect the new lateness standards, and there will be a 6 month probation period under the agreed schedules when the STB will examine results but not apply sanctions.

This is a great development. Amtrak has always had statutory priority, but no way to enforce it short of a lawsuit. Finally being able to go to a regulatory authority to enforce its rights is a great develoment.

As another poster pointed out, the creation of Amtrak did not relieve the railroads still providing passenger service of their common carrier obligations provide passenger service. It transferred the operating responsibility (and losses) to Amtrak, but requires railroads to provide support Amtrak in order to fulfill their obligations.
 
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