A CEO's attention to detail

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Oct 2, 2018
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Keith Creel, the CEO of CPKC (Candian Pacific Kansas City), was touting his railroad's daily flagship Chicago-Mexico trains. As reported by Trains Magazine Newswire Creel said
"We’re beating what we advertised, and that train is 95%, 96% on time. I look at it every day, every morning. If it gets late I know about it."

I wonder, does Amtrak CEO Steven Gardener pay similar attention to, and take similar pride in, his long distance trains?
 
Keith Creel, the CEO of CPKC (Candian Pacific Kansas City), was touting his railroad's daily flagship Chicago-Mexico trains. As reported by Trains Magazine Newswire Creel said
"We’re beating what we advertised, and that train is 95%, 96% on time. I look at it every day, every morning. If it gets late I know about it."

I wonder, does Amtrak CEO Steven Gardener pay similar attention to, and take similar pride in, his long distance trains?
I’m sure he notices that the freight guys put Amtrak in the sidings all the time. ;)
 
A more interesting question might be: If there were no freight railroads to blame, would Amtrak run on time, or would there be another excuse?
If there weren't any freight trains, there probably wouldn't be a contiguous rail network at all outside of NEC-land, but just bits of commuter line here and there and the occasional corridor.
 
I was referring to time-keeping over strictly the Amtrak owned and dispatched segments, regardless of where the train originated...mainly New Rochelle to Washington, (or Harrisburg).

Of course, whenever the opportunity presents itself, Amtrak will be quick to point the finger at whatever tenant RR train failure's cause delays, as they are quick to mention Amtrak for causing their own delay...
 
One word of caution. New York Penn Station and Harold Interlocking is not exclusively dispatched by Amtrak. That area is jointly dispatched by Amtrak and LIRR, as PSCC is a joint operation of the two. As usual it is more complicated than it appears at first blush.
 
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One word of caution. New York Penn Station and Harold Interlocking is not exclusively dispatched by Amtrak. That area is jointly dispatched by Amtrak and LIRR, as PSCC is a joint operation of the two. As usual it is more complicated than it appears at first blush.
Agreed...when that happened, I was somewhat surprised that Amtrak "gave up its sovereignty" on its property. I guess they caved under heavy political pressure...
 
Agreed...when that happened, I was somewhat surprised that Amtrak "gave up its sovereignty" on its property. I guess they caved under heavy political pressure...
LIRR actually owns significant part of the overall capacity of Penn Station. They paid actual money to buy it. In that sense all of Penn Station is not owned clear and square by Amtrak. This is simply a reflection of that reality. IIRC NYSDOT acquired this from PC before the NEC property was conveyed to Amtrak, but I could be wrong on this exact timing of when it happened.
 
LIRR actually owns significant part of the overall capacity of Penn Station. They paid actual money to buy it. In that sense all of Penn Station is not owned clear and square by Amtrak. This is simply a reflection of that reality. IIRC NYSDOT acquired this from PC before the NEC property was conveyed to Amtrak, but I could be wrong on this exact timing of when it happened.
But Amtrak maintained the operating infrastructure and fully staffed it, until they reached the "share agreement" much later, right?
 
At Washington the most common delays northbound seem to be track signal failures, such as between WAS and BAL. Has happened several times in the past few years, and it cascades immediately. I don't recall if that segment is on the official list of backlog projects, which are finally getting some funding. People seem to focus on speed improvements, but you could say that's a less important side effect of clearing up the capital backlog.

The most common delays southbound from WAS are freight interference and failing P42 locomotives. I wouldn't expect any improvements in freight interference beyond Virginia and North Carolina, and meanwhile freight traffic will increase. The P42's are being replaced by Siemens Chargers. The Autotrain has a small pool of Dash-8 locomotives to fill in for bad P42's.

One note on Amtrak's financing, as an example, about a decade ago the federal government sold the massive air rights from WAS station over the platforms to H Street. Measuring with my finger, that's about nine acres. It starts 50 feet up, so there is still room for the planned concourse to H Street. Amtrak needed the money.

As for management, the key is transparency, and there are few journalists really pushing Amtrak on this. In other words, the Transit Costs Project at NYU has the right idea. The researchers had to become reporters, finding sources and scouring obscure public documents. It wasn't about Amtrak, but there's a similar tendency to insularity (contracts are proprietary!), and negativity from many observers. Even the press releases from Amtrak have a different tone nowadays, focusing on fixes rather than fluff, such as the wonderful cartoon poster at Washington Union, of Jane Pauley and Briant Gumbel riding the "Today Show Express" in 1985.

Inside the WAS station, there's a 99-year lease on most of the available space, and Amtrak is admirably fighting to break it. The leaseholder proved inept at WAS and worse elsewhere, with the lease going to another entity after bankruptcy. Amtrak may be opaque, but it's also obstinate when it gets in a fight. See also: its relations with the MTA in NYC. It's basically a railroad.
 
But Amtrak maintained the operating infrastructure and fully staffed it, until they reached the "share agreement" much later, right?
Amtrak I believe still has primary responsibility for maintaining the infrastructure of the East River tunnels. Harold Interlocking though is much more confusing with the addition of the ESA. They have always had a share agreement, but the content of it has changed over time. As I mentioned earlier, the property transaction happened before the property was conveyed to Amtrak, and whatever agreement existed between NYSDOT and PC was inherited by Amtrak in '76. Before that it was all PC's baby and Amtrak was just a tenant..
 
I live in NJ and normally do 3 or 4 round trips a year on Amtrak in the NEC. For the most part the trains I have taken (usually Acela) have been “mostly” on schedule 🙂. I’m almost always exactly on time going southbound to DC in the morning, but often get a last moment delay waiting to pull into the station at DC (like 5 min or so). I have often hit a warm weather speed restriction going northbound (as I’m coming home in the afternoon) sometimes 10 minutes. Perhaps I’m just lucky, but the worst delay I had ever had on the NEC was earlier in the year I had a 1 hour delay leaving Boston due to late arrival of my departing train due to some big problem that I have now forgotten (Signal failure, or downed powerline or something along those lines).

I was in Germany last month and frankly DB was faring much worse than my Amtrak trips. In the span of a week I think every ICE train I took was late and 2 DB trains I was going to take were cancelled at the last minute… one literally from under my feet.
 
I was in Germany last month and frankly DB was faring much worse than my Amtrak trips. In the span of a week I think every ICE train I took was late and 2 DB trains I was going to take were cancelled at the last minute… one literally from under my feet.
DB has indeed been having a lot of problems of late for various reasons.
 
I was in Germany last month and frankly DB was faring much worse than my Amtrak trips. In the span of a week I think every ICE train I took was late and 2 DB trains I was going to take were cancelled at the last minute… one literally from under my feet.
DB's delays have become somewhat the butt of all jokes among German passengers. Even rail companies that operate trains in the country have also faced delays as well. It's all due to aging infrastructure, the fact that the increasing numbers of people riding the trains have led to a situation London faces, where the railway was never built to handle the traffic it sees now, compared to decades ago. Plus you got the ongoing construction projects that are underway to alleviate these capacity issues. It's going to be a mess for a few years over there.

As for Keith Creel's comments about CPKC's on time performance, I wonder what happens if someone asked him, if the freight trains are running on time, does that mean Amtrak is able to run on time as well whenever they operate on CPKC's tracks?
 
As for Keith Creel's comments about CPKC's on time performance, I wonder what happens if someone asked him, if the freight trains are running on time, does that mean Amtrak is able to run on time as well whenever they operate on CPKC's tracks?
CPKC is actually the best of the six major freight lines! Host Railroad Reports, here: Amtrak Reports & Documents

Most improved over two years is NS. The worst is now UP. This is for all host responsible delays, including freight interference.

Looking at 12 months:
  • CPKC's lowest performance is over its 60 miles for the Ethan Allen.
  • The worst, when including all hosts: Sunrail in Florida. Part of that line is getting double tracked now. Next are Metra and New Mexico DOT.
  • The best hosts in alphabetical order are Amtrak itself, Florida DOT, Mass DOT, Michigan DOT, PanAm, and Vermont Rail.
  • MNRR's freight-like performance on 65 miles of the NEC affects many passengers.
Some of these are probably minutes not hours, like Sunrail and MNRR.

And... Amtrak's schedule padding is an unknown quantity. For a while a few years ago, City of New Orleans had about the best performance.
 
Amtrak I believe still has primary responsibility for maintaining the infrastructure of the East River tunnels. Harold Interlocking though is much more confusing with the addition of the ESA. They have always had a share agreement, but the content of it has changed over time. As I mentioned earlier, the property transaction happened before the property was conveyed to Amtrak, and whatever agreement existed between NYSDOT and PC was inherited by Amtrak in '76. Before that it was all PC's baby and Amtrak was just a tenant..
Even if the MTA-LIRR acquired some of Penn Station property--probably its concourse, ticket office, and waiting area, along with maybe tracks 17-21, and its platforms, it never staffed any of the towers. PC did, and then later Amtrak, all the way until Harold. LIRR staffed Harold, but every other one west of there was Amtrak, until they created the PSCC, and they shared its operation.
 
DB's delays have become somewhat the butt of all jokes among German passengers. Even rail companies that operate trains in the country have also faced delays as well. It's all due to aging infrastructure, the fact that the increasing numbers of people riding the trains have led to a situation London faces, where the railway was never built to handle the traffic it sees now, compared to decades ago. Plus you got the ongoing construction projects that are underway to alleviate these capacity issues. It's going to be a mess for a few years over there.

As for Keith Creel's comments about CPKC's on time performance, I wonder what happens if someone asked him, if the freight trains are running on time, does that mean Amtrak is able to run on time as well whenever they operate on CPKC's tracks?
The German government has passed various measures attracting additional passengers through ultra low fare offers, largely against the advice of railroad professionals, and has failed to match these measures with additional capacity or investment.

This comes on top of an unfortunate history of problems with new trains and other equipment and lack of investment if not downsizing and minimalist thinking in other areas, meaning DB was anything but prepared for the additional riders.
 
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The German government has passed various measures attracting additional passengers through ultra low fare offers, largely against the advice of railroad professionals, and has failed to match these measures with additional capacity or investment.

This comes on top of an unfortunate history of problems with new trains and other equipment and lack of investment if not downsizing and minimalist thinking in other areas, meaning DB was anything but prepared for the additional riders.
DB, at one time, was the "Gold Standard" of Europe. Right now, I would give OBB (Austrian) that title with their "Railjets" and the "Nightjet" success is an example of giving travelers what they want, at a decent price and running largely on time.
 
DB, at one time, was the "Gold Standard" of Europe. Right now, I would give OBB (Austrian) that title with their "Railjets" and the "Nightjet" success is an example of giving travelers what they want, at a decent price and running largely on time.
I agree.

Maybe the Swiss and Dutch systems deserve to be in second and third place.
 
DB, at one time, was the "Gold Standard" of Europe. Right now, I would give OBB (Austrian) that title with their "Railjets" and the "Nightjet" success is an example of giving travelers what they want, at a decent price and running largely on time.
Ah, so this is the old saying, "if you want to experience German efficiency, go to Switzerland" or, in this case, Austria.
 
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