Lipinski Presses Amtrak CEO for Answers on Train Delays

CHICAGO—Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) has given Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson until the end of the month to respond to written questions about the system failures at Union Station on Feb. 28 that caused service disruptions for nearly 100,000 Amtrak and Metra passengers.

Lipinski, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, sent the questions to Anderson in an official letter after meeting with him last week in Washington.

“I write to express concern for the major service disruptions that affected all Amtrak and Metra rail lines traveling through Chicago Union Station on Feb. 28, 2019,” the letter states. “Given the important role Chicago Union Station plays in the lives of the countless Metra commuters and Amtrak passengers that travel through the facility each day, we cannot let this situation happen again.”

Last month’s service disruptions occurred after Amtrak deployed a server upgrade to its technology that supports the dispatch control system at Union Station and in the process, severed electrical service to the dispatch system by way of human error. The hardware failure caused delays on Metra and Amtrak trains that lasted more than 12 hours and forced many passengers to find alternative methods to and from work.

The questions posed to Anderson include:

  • What management protocols exist or are being implemented to ensure the timing of future computer system changes or upgrades are not implemented during high-traffic times and will not result in system degradation that negatively affects commuters on Amtrak or other rail systems?
  • What back-up or redundancy system does Amtrak have to ensure the operation of its dispatch control systems? If Amtrak does have such a system, what failure occurred to that system on February 28?
  • Does Amtrak contemplate any means or have any procedures for reimbursing those who had to pay out of pocket for their alternate means of commuting home?

“I appreciated the candor CEO Anderson displayed when he met with me and accepted responsibility for the failures that led to the chaos at Union Station,” Lipinski said. “However, we need more than contrition and an acknowledgment of what went wrong in order to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to compensate passengers. I’ve asked him to conduct an in-depth review of Amtrak’s policies and procedures and present a corrective action plan to help build back the public’s confidence in our rail system and give commuters the reliable service they should expect.”