At 3:17 a.m. today, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York City train #48) departed Chicago Union Station. In other words, it started its 960-mile journey 5 hours, 47 minutes late. The eastbound train was more than six hours down when it met and passed its daily westbound counterpart, train #49, somewhere between Sandusky and Toledo about 10 a.m. as #49 is running more than four hours late. Amazingly, that’s an improvement over its average delay of 5 hours, 57 minutes per daily train since Feb. 20! (See details below)
Meanwhile, rail travelers in Cincinnati and other communities along the Ohio River have had no train service at all. Their thrice-weekly Amtrak Cardinal (Chicago-New York City trains #50/51) was canceled after a CSX oil train derailed and exploded Feb. 18 in West Virginia. No replacement bus service has since been offered between Cincinnati and Charlottesville, VA. Amtrak has also canceled Chicago-Boston trains #448/449, citing severe winter weather across New England. At least Amtrak has provided substitute bus service Albany-Boston to connect with trains #48/49. But that’s hardly a convenience considering how late those trains have been.
How late? Since Feb. 20, these are the average delays per Ohio train that haven’t been canceled during this period…
- Train #49 arriving Chicago: 5 hours, 57 minutes late
- Train #48 arriving New York City: 4 hours, 15 minutes late
- Train #30 arriving Washington DC: 2 hours, 44 minutes late
- Train #29 arriving Chicago: 2 hours, 11 minutes late
(NOTE: daily trains #29/30 are the WB/EB Capitol Limited serving the Ohio stations of Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, Cleveland & Alliance. Daily trains #48/49 are the EB/WB Lake Shore Limited serving the Ohio stations of Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria & Cleveland).
“This is downright offensive to the traveling public,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “Amtrak President Joe Boardman must be held to account for this, starting with a personal apology to all passengers who had to endure this pathetic excuse for transportation in a civilized nation. It is clear by their poor performance that these trains are being neglected by Amtrak and its private-sector partners who own and manage the tracks. Rail transportation used to be largely indifferent to bad winter weather. Nowadays, the railroads can’t seem to get their trains through the snow and cold.”
Some of the reasons for the delays include those beyond Amtrak’s control, including speed restrictions as low as 25 mph on tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern (NS) who fear the cold will crack their seamless welded steel rails. But other delays are Amtrak’s responsibility, namely equipment malfunctions. Locomotives have failed en-route while doors between rail cars freeze open, dropping temperatures inside for passengers and causing toilets, pipes and water tanks to freeze and rupture.