The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released a report measuring the performance and service quality of Amtrak intercity passenger train operations for fourth-quarter 2021 (ending Sept. 30). Among the findings: the Cardinal, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle were delayed most.
The report (download below) uses metrics and standards defined in FRA’s November 2020 final rule, which was published after a nearly 10-year battle involving Amtrak and its host freight railroads that twice reached the U.S. Supreme Court; they are grouped into the categories of on-time performance (OTP) and train delays, customer service, financial performance, and public benefits. The final rule requires Amtrak and the host railroads to certify Amtrak schedules, and sets an OTP minimum standard of 80% for any two consecutive calendar quarters.
The FRA report, published Feb. 14, found that Amtrak trains experienced more than 1.2 million minutes of delay during the fourth quarter, up 37% from the previous quarter. System-wide, fourth-quarter train-miles were up 33% from the third quarter, coming in at 8,168,324 train-miles, as Amtrak restored service following the pandemic.
“Delay minutes are tracked for each Amtrak train according to 40 individual delay codes across three major categories: Host Responsible Delays (including freight train interference and slow orders on the track), Amtrak Responsible Delays (including equipment problems and delays related to passenger loading and unloading), and Third Party Responsible Delays (primarily weather-related),” according to the report.
Freight train interference was the largest cause of delays, the report found, with 22% of total delay minutes, an increase of 36% from the previous quarter. Responsible for 93% of the freight train-interference delay minutes: Union Pacific (55,479 minutes), BNSF (49,631 minutes), CSX (38,913 minutes), and Norfolk Southern (38,671 minutes).
“Amtrak Responsible and Host Responsible minutes of delay are also normalized by 10,000 train-miles to compare performance on routes of varying length,” according to the report. “The routes with the highest minutes of Amtrak Responsible and Host Responsible of delay per 10,000 train-miles in the fourth quarter of FY 2021 were the Cardinal (87,123 minutes), the Sunset Limited (67,300 minutes), and the Texas Eagle (42,965 minutes).”
Additionally, the report found that fourth-quarter 2021 Amtrak ridership grew 48% from the third quarter, for a total of 5,164,708 riders.
“This data provides in-depth, comprehensive information on passenger rail performance that can be used by a wide array of stakeholders, from the individual customer to transportation policymakers,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said. “As the country returns to travel, customers deserve to have access to high quality, reliable passenger rail service. Amtrak and the host railroads have made remarkable progress in reviewing and, in some cases, updating train schedules, which are critical steps to improving passenger rail service.”
Due to the phased implementation FRA’s final rule, rider on-time performance data for disputed train schedules is not included in this report, according to FRA. The first-quarter 2022 report will include it.
For all Intercity Passenger Rail Service Quality and Performance Reports