News Local/State

Durbin, Transportation Board, Vow To End Record Amtrak Delays


US Senator Dick Durbin is calling for renewed efforts to end delays on Amtrak routes in Illinois.  He met with the Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Champaign Wednesday.

The panel that included Amtrak Board of Directors member Tom Carper, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, and University of Illinois Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise discussed Amtrak’s poor on-time performance caused by the priority given to freight trains.  The panel was meeting at Champaign Terminal Building, where many of those delays are experienced. 

Durbin said 2014 has seen some of the worst, particularly the Illini and Saluki trains running from Chicago, through Champaign to Carbondale. 

They were late more than 50 percent of the time this past fiscal year. 

Durbin said Canadian National, which owns the routes, continually shows a lack of cooperation.  The Democrat said the STB and its chairman, Dan Elliott, are ready to take action, but need more authority.

“There’s been a change," he said.  "Now we have to help him.  We have to create the laws that give him the force of law behind his decision making.  But we at least have an effort underway that wasn’t before – to try to hold these railroads accountable.”

Elliott says Amtrak will ask the STB to re-file a case with the US Supreme Court over on-time performance.  

Durbin said passage of the next federal transportation bill next year will strengthen precedence for Amtrak on the freight lines it uses.

U of I Chancellor Phyllis Wise noted many international students aren’t used to seeing lengthy delays when it comes to passenger rail.