Thursday, May 24, 2007

Amtrak sidetracked...

When I saw this article earlier this week I wanted to comment on it.

I consider myself an Amtrak supporter. I took the train to Texas on Saturday and I experienced many of the delays that caused us to arrive at our destination about three hours late. I was ready to get to our destination because I was tired of riding already.

First an equipment problem kept our train from leaving Union Station for an hour. There wasn't an announcement until maybe a half hour in. You know this was the first time I heard about delays on the airlines that could last hours where passengers were forced to sit on board their planes without being allowed to get off for a second. I heard that an ATA plane sat for 10 hours keeping their passengers on board. That's very unacceptable.

Next, we kept running into freight trains and unusual signals. You know on a train back from DC our train attendant told us that we may not be on-time but we got back safely. Engineers in the locomotive can't just pass up a signal even if there are no reasons for it.

As for freight trains. Well I learned on my first trip to California two years ago that on many rail lines freight trains have precedence. That means that if a freight train approaches a passenger train has to move over and let the freighter by and then the passenger train can go forward.

We were waiting in the Texas country for the better part of an hour because of a "freight problem". At this point I was restless. I wonder what was this "freight problem". Was it that this train broke down at the wrong moment. Who knows?

Well the aforementioned article from the Chicago Tribune mentions that Amtrak has ridership gains in Illinois but they will face some of the issues that I faced on the way to Texas. It's mostly the condition of the tracks but it's also cooperation with the freight railroads. Amtrak personnel doesn't always know what they will face as they move forward to insure their trains run on time.

So if you're an Amtrak supporter read this article and sound off about the state of affairs of passenger rail.

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