When you ride on Amtrak in Illinois and most other states, the tracks don’t belong to Amtrak. That’s how the government-supported passenger rail line is blaming Canadian National for the on-time performance – or, more accurately, not-on-time performance of its Illini and Saluki routes which run between Chicago and Champaign and Carbondale. The on-time performance has slipped below 50 percent – and federal law states the owner—dispatcher of the rail must keep Amtrak at 80 percent or above. Amtrak wants the Surface Transportation Board to investigate CN.
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“We brought an action first … more than a year ago,” says Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. “We’ve spent the last … year and a half in talks with them, and the situation has not improved over that time.” The root cause of most of the delay, says Magliari, is interference from freight trains and the condition of CN’s tracks and signal system. The formula used to determine the definition of “on time” gives a train on the 309-mile Chicago-Carbondale run fifteen minutes before it’s considered late. CN chose not to comment.