RAIL PASSENGER ASSOCIATION OF CALIFORNIA
1017 L Street PMB 217
Sacramento, CA 958114-3805
1st December, 2009
Hon. Art Brown,
Chairman, LOSSAN Corridor JPB
And members of the Board
Dear Chairman Brown:
Once again the travel plans of hundreds, possibly thousands of Amtrak passengers were severely disrupted by a locomotive failure on the LOSSAN corridor, this time on the busiest travel day of the year.
While locomotive failures will happen from time to time they are usually the result of inadequate maintenance or preventive maintenance practices, and are thus avoidable. This should be a matter of great concern to the LOSSAN Board. As RailPAC has pointed out on the past, we have to grow the passenger business in this corridor and this will not happen without repeat business. Unfortunately, many of last Wednesday’s travelers will not try Amtrak a second time.
It’s high time for the LOSSAN Board and the California Division of Rail to start to demand some real accountability from Amtrak. As an all volunteer group we don’t have the resources to analyze the reasons for these recurrent service failures but we do see the revenue and punctuality statistics, and the results are simply unacceptable. The schedules are padded, freight traffic is down, but the level of service does not improve. The California taxpayer pays a considerable sum of money to Amtrak for provision of the state supported trains. In addition we pay federal tax dollars to Amtrak who then spend 95% of their capital budget on the northeast corridor. Is this acceptable?
As you review the MOU and the slow move towards interagency cooperation, we recommend you urgently consider adding an item to that agenda. We, the taxpayers, have funded three fleets of passenger locomotives in this corridor, Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster. The managements of these bodies can supply you with the statistics of the hours of service of these locomotives but common sense suggests that the Amtrak power units work many more hours per week than the “commuter” operators’ equipment. They are thus more likely to have in service failures and have fewer hours available for maintenance. What we need is a power pool to equalize the in service hours and provide more time for preventive maintenance and thus reduce the likelihood of in service failures. This locomotive pool could be sub-contracted to a private operator and each agency could pay by the hour for locomotives used. It is especially galling to see Metrolink equipment filling sidings and depots for many hours per day while Amtrak struggles to maintain a service. It’s time to bring down these walls between these taxpayer funded agencies.
Paul J. Dyson