Amtrak files complaint with STB over Capitol Limited performance

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Amtrak has filed a complaint with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board against Norfolk Southern and CSX over substandard on-time performance of the Washington D.C.-Chicago Capitol Limited, which operates over right-of-way owned by NS and CSX. Including an earlier complaint filed against CN, this is Amtrak’s second such action regarding substandard on-time performance of its long-distance trains.

Attorneys Linda J. Morgan, Kevin M. Sheys, and Katherine C. Bourdon of Nossaman, LLP, and Amtrak Managing Deputy General Counsel William H. Herrmann filed the complaint on Nov. 17, 2014, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 24308(f), to initiate an investigation by the STB.

The complaint notes that “the on-time performance of the Capitol Limited service has averaged less than 80% for two consecutive calendar quarters. If all-stations on-time performance is defined as the percentage of station arrivals (and departure from origin station) that occur within 15 minutes of the times on the public schedule, then in the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2014, all-stations on-time performance of the Capitol Limited service was 20.4%, and it was 27.8% in the previous quarter. If endpoint on-time performance for long-distance trains (such as the Capitol Limited service) is defined as the percentage of times those trains arrived at their terminal station within 30 minutes of the arrival time on the public schedule, then in the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2014, the endpoint on time performance of the Capitol Limited service was 2.7%, and it was 33.6% in the previous quarter. Amtrak respectfully requests that the STB initiate an investigation of the substandard performance on the Capitol Limited service . . . [and] if the Board determines that delays to Amtrak Capitol Limited service are attributable to a host railroad’s failure to provide preference, as required by 49 U.S.C. 24308(c), the Board award damages and other relief it determines to be reasonable and appropriate, pursuant to 49 U.S.C 24308(f)(3).”

Under Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), if the on-time performance of any intercity passenger train averages less than 80% for any two consecutive calendar quarters, upon Amtrak filing a complaint, the STB is to initiate an investigation into the causes of delays incurred by Amtrak passenger trains operating over a rail carrier’s lines. Though the term “on-time performance” is not defined in section 24308(f), the STB “has ample authority to construe ‘on-time performance,’” Amtrak’s complaint says. “Amtrak’s definitions of on-time performance are reasonable. . . . [and] Amtrak’s measurement of all-stations on-time performance under section 24308(f), besides being reasonable, also fosters an on-time performance policy goal established by Congress at the inception of Amtrak.”

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