Illinois Lawmaker Speaks Out About Amtrak Delays

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By Evie Allen

CARBONDALE -- Senator Dick Durbin says problems with Canadian National are slowing down Amtrak riders from Carbondale to Chicago.

Durbin sent a letter to CN three weeks ago and says he's still not received a response. He says the delays are caused by freight trains blocking passenger railways. Durbin wants Canadian National to move quickly on the problems.

Joined by Carbondale officials Saturday morning, Durbin pointed out the record levels of Amtrak delays along the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route. He calls it the worst in the nation for on-time performance.

"I want Canadian National to know, and all of the people that do business with the railroad, that we expect a response, a positive response to all of these issues including Amtrak service," said Durbin. 

Carbondale Mayor Don Monty, SIU, and Amtrak representatives were all there to share about rider experience. College students are a large population that use the train several times a year.

"Students like myself will go to a school to where they can have easy transportation to and from home, to and from other campuses," said student Brione Lockett.

SIU students like Lockett and Derrick Langston said delays to and from Chicago are an inconvenience for them and parents. Langston has been dealing with the issue since his first trip in 2006.    

"We were delayed for about an hour, and they said that this was a normal thing," said Langston. "It's a matter of waiting for a freight train to pass, so from the first ride that I've had, I've noticed this issue."

Chicago Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the late trains cost them more money to operate. The company has to pay crew overtime and make adjustments for passengers.

"We want to get rid of that problem," said Magliari. "And thank the senator and others who step forward to say the folks who own these tracks need to do a better job."

Amtrak filed a complaint in 2012. Magliari said things have not improved. 

"Since that time, things have continued to be under the federal standard and unexceptable under any circumstance," said Magliari. "So we're concerned this will affect our business if trains keep running this far behind schedule."

Durbin says the issues can be resolved if CN corrects the problems and gives priority to Amtrak and it's passengers.

"We're not going to quit with this press conference and with the announcement of the problem," said Durbin. "We're going to address it. I invite my colleagues in the delegation in both political parties to join me."

News 3 reached out to Canadian National, and they were unavailable to comment at this time. Earlier this month, a spokesman said the problem has improved since winter.

 
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