I assume that most of you are up to date on Amtrak’s threat to discontinue the Southwest Chief or, at the very least, seriously modify it’s schedule and quality of service. You can go here for a recap of the story if you need to.
Meanwhile, in a distressing new development, we find that Amtrak has been decietful in communicating with its own employees about the future of the Chief.
In a recent memo to employees, Amtrak’s management stated “we will need to invest more than $100M in the next 3-5 years to bring the [Southwest Chief’s] route to a State of Good Repair and to fully implement Positive Train Control …” But at least twice over the past several weeks in meetings with government officials and representatives of Rail Passengers Association—meetings also attended by Amtrak executives—BNSF Railroad employees have said the cost of repairing and maintaining that very same stretch of track was estimated at $30 to $50 million over a ten-year period.
Apparently to justify their $100 million figure, Amtrak has said it includes the cost of implementing Positive Train Control. But the truth is, the Chief’s route is either already covered by PTC where rail traffic requires it (mostly east of La Junta and west of Lamy) or has already been properly exempted by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Over the past fifty years, the Rail Passengers Association has continually gone to bat for Amtrak. RPA members—on our own time and at our own expense—have repeatedly contacted their elected members of Congress in person and with phone calls and emails urging support for Amtrak. It is distressing at the very least that Amtrak’s leadership not only seems to be looking for ways to justify the elimination of much of the long distance service, but they are being deceitful in the information they present to justify their position.