From: McClatchy DC
McClatchy Washington Bureau December 23, 2013
WASHINGTON — Freight congestion has caused massive delays and even cancellations of a popular Amtrak train in recent months, a situation that could worsen as one of the nation’s largest rail companies plans to increase shipments of fossil fuels on much of the route.
The Empire Builder, which runs from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, Ore., carries more passengers than any of Amtrak’s long-distance trains, 543,000 in 2012.
But it also recorded the worst on-time performance in Amtrak’s nationwide network in November, at 44.5 percent. Any number below 80 percent is considered substandard under a law Congress passed in 2008.
Amtrak took the drastic step this month of canceling five Empire Builder trains in one week, three eastbound and two westbound, between St. Paul, Minn., and Spokane, Wash. Delays in North Dakota and Montana were causing an imbalance of equipment and personnel at each end of the scenic, 2,000-mile run across the country’s northern tier. MORE