CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Amtrak’s ‘Illini’ and ‘Saluki’ lines are some of the most popular ways to get from Central Illinois to Chicago, but regular riders will tell you to pack your patience when you hop on-board.
The Office of Inspector General says those lines rank nationally for being late. Over 240,000 passengers per year use them, many of the riders are college students from Champaign and Carbondale headed home to Chicago. But no matter who you are, the experience seems to remain the same.
“Last week it was about 30 minutes,” says frequent rider Darrian Teran. “[Today] it’s going to be about an hour, hour ten minutes late.”
In that study, the two routes are only on time an average of 28 percent of the time. And they were late by an hour over 15 percent of the time.
“This morning we were 12 minutes late,” says Gina Fox, who rode the train for their grandchild’s field trip Friday. “In the past we’ve been up to an hour late getting picked up. It’s nice to ride them but it’s not the most reliable if you need to be there at a specific time.”
In a statement, Amtrak says trains being behind are, “primarily driven by delays caused by host railroads that own most of the rail lines used by Amtrak trains.”
Canadian National runs the rails used by the ‘Illini’ and ‘Saluki’ lines. They say they are working on ways to speed things up.
“CN is dedicated to work as fast as possible with Amtrak on a solution that allows Amtrak’s trains to run safely without a speed restriction,” said the company in a statement. “Removal of the speed restriction will significantly increase on-time performance for these services.”
Those frequent riders feel the affects of the tardiness most often. Teran works in the area but takes the train most weekends to see his girlfriend in Mattoon. With the inconsistency, she is rarely able to count on when he will get there.
“If I say I’m going to be there at 11, you know my girlfriend will come pick me up at 11,” says Teran. “You know if I want to go to a concert at 11:30 and I’m supposed to be there at 11, and the train pushes it back another hour, I can’t go to that concert now.”
Amtrak did an internal ranking of all of the rail companies they use for their lines. Canadian National was given a ‘D-‘ for their ability to keep passengers on time over the last year.