TRAIN OPERATIONS: ON-TIME PERFORMANCE REPORTING GENERALLY ACCURATE; ADDITIONAL ACTIONS COULD ENHANCE DELAY REPORTING
On-time rail performance is important to Amtrak (the company) achieving its strategic goals of acquiring and retaining satisfied customers and enhancing its revenues. The company uses two performance metrics to measure the timeliness of its trains:
• On-time performance. How a train actually performs compared to its published, scheduled arrival time at each station and final destination on its route.
• Delays. How much a train’s elapsed run time exceeds its optimum run time at various locations along its route.
The company uses this information to produce a series of widely distributed monthly and quarterly reports, to diagnose why trains are late, and to manage relationships with host railroads—whose tracks the company uses for most of its train routes—in order to improve its trains’ performance. Further, the accuracy of the company’s on-time performance and delay information is important to host railroads because the company pays host railroads financial incentives to help keep its trains operating on time. Host railroads use the company’s on-time performance and delay information to calculate and invoice on-time performance incentive payments the company owes under contractual agreements. In calendar year (CY) 2015, the company paid host railroads more than $24 million in incentive payments.
Additionally, federal agencies overseeing rail operations use the company’s reports to fulfill the following statutory obligations:
• The Federal Railroad Administration uses the information to fulfill a legislative requirement under Section 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA)4 to collect data and publish a quarterly report on the performance and service quality of intercity passenger train operations.
• The Surface Transportation Board can use the information to investigate substandard performance of company trains operating over host railroad tracks, as authorized by Section 213 of PRIIA.
Our audit objectives were to assess (1) the accuracy of the company’s reporting of on-time performance and delays for trains operating on host railroad tracks and (2) whether data quality and management control issues affect the accuracy and reliability of performance data. We used the company’s performance data to recalculate its CY 2015 quarterly on-time performance for all 39 long-distance and state-supported5 routes, and to recalculate delays for 14 trains operating on 7 of these routes.