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Congress grills Amtrak over cuts to long-distance service

June 30, 2020

Nine Republican and seven Democratic members of the U.S. Senate have asked Amtrak to explain its decision to suspend daily long-distance service on 12 routes. Specifically, senators are asking Amtrak to explain the numbers used in making the decision—and the metrics it will use for deciding when to resume normal service.

In an internal memo in mid-June, Amtrak outlined plans to reduce service on most of its long-distance routes to three days per week, in addition to reducing Northeast Corridor service by 32 percent.

The proposed service reductions will “eliminate thousands of points of connection and dramatically reduce the utility of Amtrak as a transportation provider, irrevocably hurting hundreds of communities and small towns already devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a letter sent by Sen. Steve Dianes (R-MT). It was one of three letters sent by members of Congress to Amtrak CEO William Flynn.

In a separate letter, Montana’s other senator—Jon Tester—joined Democrats from West Virginia and Nevada in calling the cuts “particularly egregious” since long-distance Amtrak routes “provided double the revenue of state-supported routes or the Northeast Corridor combined in May.” They described passenger rail service as a critical component of the U.S. transportation network, providing an efficient means of connecting cities and towns across the country.

"Amtrak has said that it intends to restore daily service “as demand warrants, potentially by the summer of 2021.”

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Read More:

Amtrak plans triweekly service for almost all long-distance trains as of Oct. 1

Letter to Amtrak sent by Sen. Steve Dianes (R-MT)

Letter to Amtrak sent by Jon Tester (D-MT)

Letter to Amtrak from members of the Senate Committee on Transportation