Freight traffic forces delays for Northstar commuter rail

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2013 - 8:10 PM

The conflict has slowed more trips than usual lately.

Two Northstar trains ran into lengthy delays Thursday because of heavy freight traffic.

The first morning commuter trip from Big Lake into downtown Minneapolis was delayed by more than 30 minutes. And in the evening, the 5:27 p.m. train leaving downtown hit a 30-minute delay near Fridley, said John Siqveland, Metro Transit spokesman.

The delays were caused by freight backups on lines other than the one Northstar uses, said BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth. “When something happens on another route, it impacts our entire network,” said McBeth, adding that freight trains also were delayed.

Northstar — with stops in Elk River, Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley — had three of its five morning trips delayed on Dec. 5 for the same reason.

“In the past couple of months, freight traffic has slowed Northstar trips more than is typical,” Siqveland, said. “Metro Transit is working with BNSF to do everything possible to keep Northstar trips on time during disruptions.”

Thanks in large part to fare discounts, Northstar’s ridership is projected to increase by 12 percent this year — from 700,276 to roughly 784,000.

The ongoing delays, however, have soured some commuters’ impressions.

“This is ridiculous,” wrote one of several riders venting on Metro Transit’s Facebook page. “I was 30 minutes late to work yesterday due to Northstar. Now I’m going to be 45 minutes late today. Northstar can start paying employees lost time and offer free rides for the daily delays.”

In acknowledging rider frustrations, Siqveland said Metro Transit has hosted customer appreciation events following sustained disruptions.

“We meet customers in person, provide free rides and express our gratitude for their patience,” he said. “Most recently, we held one in late October at the conclusion of a rail maintenance campaign.”

 

Mary Lynn Smith contributed to this report.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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