The SW Chief Saga (Continued).
To recap: Amtrak’s Southwest Chief runs once a day in each direction between Los Angeles and Chicago. More of less in the middle of it’s route, the train passes over a stretch of track that runs for several hundred miles through parts of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. That section of track, which belongs to BNSF, the freight railroad, needs to be repaired and upgraded at considerable cost … cost that no one party is willing or able to pay.
So a kind of task force was formed and after two years of haggling, commitments were made by all of the parties, each kicking in their share of the money needed to upgrade the track.
But the deal blew up when Amtrak, under its new president, Richard Anderson, quite unexpectedly said Amtrak wasn’t going to honor the commitment that the previous Amtrak bosses had made.
Amtrak did propose an alternate plan, but it involved taking people off the train, loading them onto buses and driving them around the poor track some 500 miles where another train would be waiting to continue on.
Clearly it was a terrible idea. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, or even a former airline executive, to know that a schedule like that would have a devastating impact on the Chief’s ridership. Anderson’s strategy was obvious and clumsy, but it had unintended consequences: it generated a small avalanche of emails and phone calls to Congressional offices from RPA members, especially those from states through which the Chief passes.
And the politicians finally started paying attention. Most recently, Kansas senator Jerry Moran, a Republican, has filed an amendment to the 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Act (THUD) that would provide $2.5 billion to Amtrak, but mandating that the fund be spent on that stretch of track and that Amtrak continue to operate the Southwest Chief.
Isn’t it amazing how these politicians are nowhere to be found when Amtrak as an entire system is slowly being starved to death … but they turn into wounded tigers when “their” train is threatened!
Well, whatever works.