Sun Biz: Amtrak’s on-time rate soars

-Jan Nettler of Huntington, Mass., checks her clock after taking a half an hour walk at the Amtrack station in Grand Junction because the easstbound train arrived in GJ early. She is traveling home on the train from San Francisco.

When the eastbound Amtrak train pulled into the Grand Junction station Thursday morning, Jan Nettler had enough time to get off to stretch her legs and take a 30-minute walk around town.

Nettler was headed home to Huntington, Mass., after a trip to San Francisco to visit her stepson.

“On the train, both ways, we’ve been early,” Nettler said.

The one exception was a delay on the eastern plains of Colorado when the train was hampered by strong winds.

Amtrak trains travel through Grand Junction every day between Chicago and San Francisco. It is a route that in the past it wouldn’t have been a good one to set your watch to.

In March 2007 only 18 percent of the Amtrak trains that came through the Grand Junction station did it on time, according to Union Pacific, which handles track operations. That number jumped to 44 percent in March 2008, and hit 92 percent last month.

Amtrak, which is owned by the federal government, operates passenger service around the country on the tracks of privately owned railroads.

“There has been effort by Union Pacific to reduce delays,” said Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman.

Mark Davis, spokesman for Union Pacific, said track maintenance has greatly helped trains run on time.

“All the track projects we’ve done over the years are starting to pay off,” Davis said.

Other improvements have allowed dispatchers to move freight traffic at constant speed and flow, which gives railroads more flexibility and the ability to give Amtrak trains priority, he said.


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