Amtrak On-Time Performance

Amtrak On-Time Performance

Seventy-seven percent of Amtrak trains arrived at their final destination on time in 2002 [1]. While this represented a 2 percent improvement compared with 2001, it still fell short of the system’s performance during the 1998 to 2000 period (figure 16). Amtrak counts a train as delayed only if it arrives more than 10 to 30 minutes beyond the scheduled arrival time, depending on the distance the train has traveled.1 Amtrak on-time data are based on a train’s arrival at its final destination and do not include delay statistics for intermediate points.2

In addition to the system total, Amtrak reported the performance for short- and long-distance trains through 2000.3 Over the years, short-distance trains—those with runs of less than 400 miles—have consistently registered better on-time performance than long-distance trains—those of 400 miles or more. Annual on-time performance for short-distance trains reached as high as 81 percent in recent years, while the peak for long-distance trains was 61 percent on time in 1999 [2].

Amtrak collects data on the cause and cumulative hours of delay (figure 17). (A change in reporting methodology in 2000 has resulted in data that cannot be compared with data from 1999 and earlier years.) Since 1995, freight-related delays have consistently represented the cause of about half of total Amtrak delay time. In addition to interruptions in service due to freight trains, freight-related delays also stem from signal problems, trackwork, and speed restrictions while Amtrak trains are using tracks of other railroads. Amtrak trains operate over tracks owned primarily by private freight railroads except in most of the Northeast Corridor, along a portion of the Detroit-Chicago route, and in a few other short stretches across the country [2].


1. National Passenger Railroad Corp. (Amtrak), personal communication, Mar. 3, 2003.

2. _____, Amtrak Annual Report (Washington, DC: 2000 and 2001 issues), statistical appendix.

1 Amtrak trips of up to 250 miles are considered on time if they arrive less than 10 minutes beyond the scheduled arrival time; 251–350 miles, 15 minutes; 351–450 miles, 20 minutes; 451–550 miles, 25 minutes; and greater than 550 miles, 30 minutes.

2 Accordingly, a train traveling between Chicago and St. Louis (282 miles), for example, could arrive 15 minutes late at all intermediate points, yet arrive 12 minutes late at St. Louis and be reported as “on time.”

3 Amtrak is no longer reporting short- and long-haul data separately.