MARC, VRE see drop in on-time performance, cite increased CSX traffic

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MP36PH-36, No. 21 shoves an MARC train eastbound past CSX's WB Tower at Brunswick, Md., in April 2011. MARC and VRE trains serving Washington are experiencing significant drops in on-time performance and say CSX freight traffic is a major factor.

Scott A. Hartley

WASHINGTON — The two commuter railroads serving the Washington area are experiencing a major drop in on-time performance, and both say increased freight traffic on host railroad CSX Transportation is a significant factor.

The Washington Post reports that Maryland Area Regional Commuter trains and Virginia Railway Express both note there are other factors: hot weather, mechanical issues, and glitches in the roll-out of positive train control. But congestion from CSX traffic is playing a big part.

“There’s just a lot more trains out on the system than there used to be,” Joe Swartz, VRE’s chief of staff, told the Post. “It is not unusual for us to occasionally get caught behind a freight train, and that causes some delays.”

For MARC, on-time performance for the Camden Line, which runs from Washington Union Station to Camden Yards in Baltimore, dropped to 65% in June. On the Brunswick Line, from Union Station to Martinsburg, W.Va., the figure was 73 percent. For VRE, only about 57 percent of trains arrived on time in April and May. That improved to 68% in June, still well short of the 90% target for arrival within five minutes of schedule.

Meanwhile, MARC’s Penn line, which runs on the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor, achieved a 91-percent on-time rate.

CSX spokeswoman Cindy Schild told the Post in an email that freight traffic information is proprietary but that she did not believe there had been a year-over-year increase in trains in the Washington Area. “We continue to meet our contractual obligations with our partners and work to improve on-time performance, which minimizes avoidable delays,” Schild wrote.

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