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Passenger Rail Kansas is a grass roots advocacy organization, dedicated to the preservation and expansion of service in Kansas and the surrounding region. 

Week of October 12 - Southwest Chief Schedule to be Cut to Three-Days-a-Week.
September 25, 2020

       Amtrak plans to cut daily Southwest Chief operation to three-days-a-week the week of October 12. As advertised the following details apply:

Westbound train 3 will depart Chicago Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Eastbound train 4 will depart Los Angeles Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

       When on time, this will put train 3 in Lawrence on the same day of departure from Chicago. Train 3 will reach Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

       Also, when on time, this will put train 4 in Garden City and Dodge City on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays - then Thursdays, Saturdays, and Mondays in Hutchinson, Newton, Topeka, and Lawrence.

       Confused? You have a right to be and there is an ulterior motive. COVID-19 is the crisis Amtrak executives and board members do not intend to waste.

       Those who have followed Amtrak since Richard Anderson took over on January 1, 2018 understand. Remember the planned bus bridge between Dodge City and Albuquerque? Amtrak’s corporate policy is to find any excuse to eliminate trains from the long-distance network. Long-distance trains, such as the Southwest Chief, are those funded by the federal government on routes of 750-miles or greater.

       The ultimate objective is to move more federal dollars to the Washington D.C. – Boston Northeast Corridor (NEC) through the elimination of long-distance trains and/or soaking states through which the trains run for additional appropriations. To Amtrak executives, the color of money is important. They see federal dollars as a northeastern United States birthright. Federal code begs to differ.

       When Wiliam Flynn took over on April 16, there was some hope he would turn back Anderson’s draconian policies. Rather, Flynn doubled down in the midst of the pandemic with his kinder-gentler approach in Congressional meetings. Flynn has ignored advocates who understand, tri-weekly service comes with all the costs of daily operation with only three days of revenue. Flynn, formerly CEO of Atlas Airlines, is Amtrak’s second consecutive aviation CEO.

       The common denominators at Amtrak are Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Gardner and Board Chairman Anthony Coscia. Both lobby for additional NEC funding while misusing Amtrak performance reports to paint the NEC money pit in a positive light using statistics such as NEC operational profitability and ridership in lieu of total NEC costs and passenger miles.

       So, it is appropriate to repeat, “Amtrak runs on 99% politics and 1% funding.” Amtrak does not receive the funding necessary to rebuild the NEC, so it plays politics by holding the national network hostage.

       Gardner has been at Amtrak since 2009. This is in our view eleven years too long. Fortunately, Coscia will term out in December. Both were no doubt instrumental in identifying and hiring former aviation CEOs, as in Anderson and Flynn. Both Anderson and Flynn were hired because they are short on institutional knowledge and heavy on business practices that do not work at Amtrak.

       Kansans should immediately contact U.S. Senator Jerry Moran's office and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts' office. Ask them to keep the Southwest Chief a daily train service as it is today!

       Contact information for Kansas’s Washington D.C. delegation is included on the GovTrack website: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/KS

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