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Freight vs. Folks on Lone Rail Line

Metrolink riders seethe as Union Pacific trains cause delays on the single track from Union Station to Riverside.

May 15, 2005|Dan Weikel | Times Staff Writer

"We are trying to do our best to recognize our obligations to commuters and to our freight customers," Bromley said.

Meanwhile, Metrolink has offered Riverside line commuters an apology and a 25% discount on monthly passes purchased for June. If it is any consolation to riders, Metrolink officials say there has been an improvement in on-time performance this month.

Though Solow acknowledges that Union Pacific is "conscious of the issues," he says he is not yet convinced that the railroad's action plan will be adequate over the long run.

Metrolink officials say they have had periodic problems with Union Pacific since 1993, including a burst of delays caused by freight trains in 2002 that they thought had been solved.

Solow isn't optimistic that existing rail facilities can handle projected increases in freight and passenger service without significant investment in new track and rights-of-way.

Given the brisk pace of international trade, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are expecting a record year for cargo. Some analysts say the projected growth of 12% to 14% for 2005 might be too low.

Metrolink officials said that delays are now showing up on lines serving Orange County and the Inland Empire line because of conflicts with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. freight trains. "There is the potential for more problems in the future," Solow said. "It's going to get harder and harder to keep us on time."

This isn't good news for Stephanie Whitt, a regular on the Riverside line.

"This is the worst transportation I've seen," Whitt said. "We don't want discounts. We don't want coupons. We don't want excuses. We just want a regular schedule."

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