RailPAC President’s Comments to LOSSAN Board

Chairman Brown and Members of the Board


January 10, 2007

I’d like to comment on item 6B and 6C, on time performance Ad-Hoc committee and Amtrak’s customer service and performance report. I spent a good part of the first few years of my career with British Railways investigating delays and compiling statistics on punctuality, so I have some experience with the matter. Issue number one is annulled trains. While it can make sense to cancel a train to avoid accumulated delays to many other trains on this under invested route, this puts operating managers at moral hazard if there is not at least some statistical penalty as a result of this action. Typically, if the service is approximately at two hourly intervals, a cancelled train should be treated for the purpose of punctuality statistics as a train running two hours late, that being the delay the inconvenienced passenger has to suffer. This 120 minutes is probably less than the delays that would have occurred by letting the train run late, but it least it gives a better indication of the actual level of service. You should not simply ignore cancelled trains as if they have no impact on customer service and the likelihood of patrons to want to be repeat customers.The second issue is that of so-called passenger train interference. On a scheduled railroad, and obviously the passenger trains are scheduled to avoid delaying each other, there is no such original cause of delay as “passenger train interference”. You will not find or find remedies for the root cause of delays if you accept this in your analysis. The first priority should be to produce statistics that reflect the true situation. If the original delay is, for example, mechanical failure, then all the consequent minutes of delay caused by missed meets and disruption to the schedule should be attributed to that cause. After that you need to know the accumulated total of secondary delays and where they occurred which will then point you to the bottlenecks, in case we don’t already know where they are. Only then will you find out where your problems lie, and what can be done to improve the situation.

Paul Dyson, President, Rail Passenger Association of California

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