October 30, 2009
Mr. Paul J. Dyson
Rail Passenger Association of California
1017 L Street #217
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Mr. Dyson: (Paul)
Thank you for your letters dated October 28 and 29, 2009. I concur that last weekend’s service disruption was unacceptable.
Simply stated, the situation was a combination of unfortunate circumstances. First, there was a mechanical failure on Saturday’s Train 571, which disrupted service for the rest of the day and into Sunday. The brake system component that malfunctioned is currently undergoing a complete tear-down,
in order for us to understand the root cause of the failure and resulting wheel sliding. For reasons of safety, the defective consist had to be moved off the mainline and approximately 70 miles of track inspected before operations could resume. Metrolink track work between CP Bake and CP Avery further
compounded the situation by effectively creating an unusually long stretch of single track. Furthermore, the location where Train 571 was stopped could not be accessed by buses. Collectively, these factors resulted in train crews being out of position and unable to complete regular assignnlents due to hours of service limitations. The end result was that numerous trains were severely delayed and thousands of passengers inconvenienced.
I recognize that a system as complex as Amtrak’s is bound to suffer from periodic fai]ures, but what occurred last weekend was extraordinarily fateful. Amtrak is undertaking several actions to not only remedy the customer service inconsistencies, but to also learn the underlying systemic failures that added to the severity of the delays. Specifically, we have assembled the passenger lists for all Pacific Surfliner
trains which experienced a delay of two or more hours last weekend, and have begun contacting the more than two thousand passengers to apologize for the situation, along with offering refunds and a discount towards future travel. Mr. Noel Braymer is among those who will be contacted.
Additionally, Amtrak is preparing a detailed chronology of the events and will use this data in our discussions with Metrolink to help develop standard operating procedures that seek to minimize the impact of future disruptions on revenue service trains. We have already discussed this situation with Caltrans and LOSSAN’s leadership, and will gladly share the outcome of this chronology with those parties.
The frustration that you and others have expressed about this set of events is legitimate, and while we strive for overall excellence, occasional failures are unavoidable. However, regardless of the failure’s origin, there is no excuse for passengers to not be informed and front line emp]oyees proactively undertaking customer-centric actions. As you know, the Pacific Surfliner is Amtrak’s second busiest
service, and following last weekend’s event Amtrak has much to do in order to regain the trust of the impacted passengers. My staff and I are committed to doing what’s necessary to manage the Pacific Surfliner service, including periodic disruptions, in a manner befitting this route’s stature.
Thank you again for expressing your concerns, and I am sorry for the events that prompted you to write, but please know that I value your support of Amtrak, and your organization’s advocacy of sound intermodalism.
Joseph H. Boardman
President and Chief Executive Officer