Passenger or Freight: Who should have track priority?

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Passenger or Freight: Who should have track priority?

Postby MaRoFu » Sat Jul 08, 2017 3:03 pm

In the United States, passenger trains are unfortunately very delayed in many areas. A considerably large amount of these have been caused by rail companies giving freight trains priority over passenger trains on their tracks. Amtrak, for example, may operate over tracks owned by Norfolk Southern, CSX, or Union Pacific. There have been many disputes regarding this, so who, in your opinion, should have track priority and why?
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Re: Passenger or Freight: Who should have track priority?

Postby DutchRailnut » Sat Jul 08, 2017 6:53 pm

Amtrak gets track priority, if they run on time . if their late they take pot luck.
why would owner of rail line hold a multi million dollar train for train with 40 to 120 passengers which runs late anyway ?
the incentive pay from Amtrak to freight carriers is not worth it to hold that multi million dollar intermodal.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Passenger or Freight: Who should have track priority?

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Jul 10, 2017 3:49 pm

As to the question of which traffic "should" receive priority, it's worth noting that freight trains earn a profit--a real profit, including maintenance and replacement of physical plant--whereas passenger trains need to be subsidized, as their airline (and private-automobile) competitors are. If the freight trains weren't there, the tracks wouldn't be either, and freight traffic is subject to being diverted if the shippers are not satisfied with the service. The widespread adoption by manufacturers of "just-in-time" delivery (to save on storage and inventory costs) means that shippers are much more demanding than in the days when freight trains were routinely sidetracked for every passenger train. Just to throw a little more weight on that side of the scale, the traffic managers who control the routing of millions of dollars' worth of freight no longer travel by train and thus are not influenced by the quality of a particular railroad's passenger service.
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Re: Passenger or Freight: Who should have track priority?

Postby ctclark1 » Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:42 pm

It's been discussed often, It is not a case of the host railroads necessarily "prioritizing" one way or another, but in the grand scheme of things there are "slots" for every train being dispatched, more specifically Amtrak has a specific chance to hit a "slot" of priority where they are dispatched and lined to encounter as little slowdown as possible. However once Amtrak runs late and misses that slot, the hosts' responsibility changes back to keeping everything else moving so that as the example was given, the multimillion dollar intermodals make their payday. Moving Amtrak through the division when they finally get there is no longer the "slotted" movement it once was and Amtrak has to wait in line with the rest of the traffic.

Clearly this happens more often than would be appreciated by the riders, but it's a fact of the beast. The biggest problem is that one holdup early in the journey can mess up the entire schedule. For example, Let's say 49 (LSL Westbound) is held up at Syracuse because of a problem on CSX rails, now they've not only missed their slot leaving SYR, but they've now lost their slot on every division and host from there to Chicago. Sure, the dispatcher in the area may still try to prioritize them getting out as much as they can, and let's just say the Rochester and Buffalo Terminal dispatchers* might be feeling nice too because they understand what the problem was, but as soon as 49 gets out of the state, and especially onto NS track at Cleveland, there's no hope because the dispatchers can try, but their priority is to their own railroad since Amtrak is operating out of slot at that point, becoming a cascading problem all the way down the line, slower and slower, later and later.

*Please don't blast me if I listed the dispatchers wrong, I haven't been able to keep up lately with what desks to and don't exist in the Albany Division anymore...
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