Audit Reports

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Analysis of the Causes of Amtrak Train Delays

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On July 10, 2012, we issued a report on our analysis of the causes of Amtrak train delays.  Our analysis:  (1) identified statistically significant causes of delays outside the NEC and under the control of either Amtrak or a freight railroad; (2) assessed the degree of influence each cause has on Amtrak delays system-wide and by individual route; and (3) examined delay determinants at locations of consistent, substantial delay.  The analysis sample period covered fiscal years 2002-2007.  The chief causes of delays system-wide were host effects and slow orders.  Host effects are delays associated with operating on the infrastructure of a particular railroad or group of railroads. In our analysis, slow orders are speed restrictions imposed by a host railroad because of poor track conditions, repairs or infrastructure improvements.  The delays contributed by host effects differed considerably by host railroad.  Only slow orders may have produced delays large enough to exceed the delays caused by the largest host effects.  Other factors, such as capacity utilization and activities at Amtrak crew change locations, contributed significantly to delays system-wide, but considerably less than either host effects or slow orders.