Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Amtrak Faces Illinois Fines If Its Trains Leave Late

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Amtrak Faces Illinois Fines If Its Trains Leave Late

Article excerpt

If Amtrak's St. Louis-to-Chicago train is a half hour late leaving St. Louis, Amtrak will be penalized $2,700 under a new agreement Illinois has with Amtrak.

Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar on Tuesday announced the agreement under which Illinois will give Amtrak $22.5 million in subsidies over three years. The agreement covers the three routes in Illinois: Chicago to Quincy, St. Louis and Carbondale. The penalty provision is believed to be the first between Amtrak and any state government.

Here is how the penalty works: Amtrak would be penalized if a train fails to leave its "point of origin" within 30 minutes of the scheduled time - that is, Chicago, St. Louis, Carbondale or Quincy, depending on where the train starts. The time limit wouldn't apply to the scheduled stops along the route.

For example, if a St. Louis-to-Chicago train leaves St. Louis 31 minutes past its scheduled departure, the fine would be imposed. If the train leaves St. Louis on time, but is late at a subsequent stop, no fine is imposed.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says Amtrak trains in Illinois are 30 minutes or more late an average of about 27 times a year. At the $2,700 rate, Amtrak would be penalized $72,400.

The penalty, however, may not address the delay problems about which most Amtrak riders complain. One veteran St. Louis-to-Chicago commuter said his train always left on time, but never arrived on time. The delay often occurs when a freight train slows an Amtrak train after the Amtrak train is under way.

Edgar said the state has been concerned about trains leaving late, and the penalty should help meet higher performance requirements.

"We hope we won't have to pay many fines," said Debbie Hare, Amtrak senior director of government and public affairs.

The penalty money will be refunded to the state treasury.

Illinois, like Missouri and other states, subsidizes Amtrak to keep the lines from shutting down.

"The new contract and new way of dealing with Amtrak is a good deal for the state and a good deal for the people of Illinois who rely on train service," said Edgar, who has made continued rail service one of the goals of his administration. …

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