In late April, Amtrak suddenly announced that it will be replacing diner car service with cold boxed lunches for sleeper car customers on the overnight Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited trains, starting June 1. The national Rail Passengers Association opposes this move, which it said will degrade the passenger experience and could be just the first step in undermining service for Amtrak’s other long-distance trains.
“At a time when Congress has just appropriated a record sum for Amtrak, we can’t understand why Amtrak is cutting service in ways that degrade the customer experience, threatening the steady growth taking place on long distance trains,” said Jim Mathews, President of the (national) Rail Passengers Association. This move comes on top of recent comments by Amtrak executives that they are considering discontinuing service for all its trains operating on tracks without Positive Train Control (which includes most of VT).
Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William Vantuono commented that this move by Amtrak would be worse than airline food, considering the fact that most airline food for long flights is served hot. This change, among others -- like removing student discounts, and terminating profitable private rail charters -- could be “a veiled attempt to drive passengers away” in support of rumored “internal plans within Amtrak to discontinue long-distance trains” and focus on short- and medium-distance services in the Northeast Corridor (DC to Boston), Midwest (Chicago) and California. If true, state-supported trains (such as the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express) are also at risk.
VRAN is working to preserve Amtrak’s national network in both Washington and Vermont. You can help by supporting our ‘Don’t Derail the National Network’ campaign. Make your donation today to help ensure that we can play an active role in the national campaign to keep Amtrak’s network intact, as Congress intended when it created Amtrak. You deserve a vibrant, affordable and comfortable option for long-distance travel by train.
Here's what you can do now:
Send a letter or email to Amtrak Board Chair Anthony Coscia. Here’s some suggested talking points:
- Vermonters depend on our 2 Amtrak routes, which we (taxpayers) support at a cost of $8 million+ a year.
- State-supported trains like the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express do NOT operate in a vacuum. Many train riders depend upon connections to other Amtrak routes in Albany, NYC and points south. If those long-distance trains are cut, or don’t offer a good customer experience, many riders will simply choose to fly or take a bus, instead of the train.
- Curtailing or eliminating discounts for students and seniors discourages travel for two of Amtrak’s largest rider demographics. It is illogical, bad public relations and will ultimately hurt ridership.
- Amtrak must focus on providing good customer service, including providing decent food options on board and updated equipment, to attract more riders and grow its business. This is not the time to retrench.
Mailing address: Amtrak, 1 Mass. Ave. NW – 6th Fl., Washington DC 20001
email: c/o Bill Hollister, Amtrak Govt. Affairs Senior Manager, HollisW@amtrak.com
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