Amtrak On-Time Performance

Amtrak On-Time Performance

Seventy-four percent of Amtrak trains arrived at their final destination on time in 2003 [2]. This was below the system’s performance peak of 79 percent in 1998 and 1999 (figure 3-8). Amtrak counts a train as delayed if it arrives at least 10 to 30 minutes beyond the scheduled arrival time, depending on the distance the train has traveled.1 In addition, 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

Over the years, short-distance Amtrak trains—those with runs of less than 400 miles (and including all Northeast Corridor and Empire State Service trains)—have consistently registered better on-time performance than long-distance trains—those with runs of 400 miles or more. Annual on-time performance for short-distance trains reached a high of 82 percent in 2000 but fell to 77 percent in 2003. Fifty-three percent of long-distance trains arrived on time in 2003, up from 52 percent in 2002 but short of their high of 61 percent in 1999.

Amtrak also collects data on the cause and cumulative hours of delay for its trains, including delays at intermediate points, and attributes the cause of each delay to Amtrak, the host railroad, or “other” (figure 3-9). Delays assigned to Amtrak represented 29 percent of all delay hours in 2003. Delays ascribed to host railroads represented 65 percent, and other delays accounted for the remaining 6 percent.3 (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 [1].) Throughout the years, host railroad delays have consistently represented the largest share of delay hours. Between 2000 and 2003, host railroad and other delays increased each year. Amtrak-caused delay hours declined in both 2002 and 2003 but remain greater than they were in 2000.


1. National Passenger Railroad Corp. (Amtrak), “Amtrak Facts,” available at, as of November 2003.

2. ______. Personal communication, Oct. 22, 2003.

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 Because of a change in reporting methodology in 2000, earlier cause-of-delay data are not comparable. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics presented Amtrak cause-of-delay data for 1990 through 1999 in its Transportation Statistics Annual Report (October 2003).