Amtrak announced that it would continue to operate the Southwest Chief on its regular route at least through the end of fiscal 2019, Sept. 30, 2019. Amtrak has threatened to eliminate or curtail that route for several years, mainly because the BNSF no longer needs to operate or maintain a key portion of the rail tracks between western Kansas and Albuquerque. That means BNSF doesn’t want to pay for track maintenance or installation of positive train control (PTC).
Earlier, Amtrak floated an absurd idea for the future: Split the route into two separate train segments: between Chicago and Dodge City and between Albuquerque and Los Angeles, with a bus “bridge” linking the two trains. That would almost certainly kill the train, which is apparently what Amtrak management wants. What nobody mentions is the possibility of rerouting the train on BNSF’s busy double-track route to the south of the current route.
At this point, we have no information on what Amtrak plans for fiscal 2020, starting in 11 months. It probably isn’t good.
Ed Perkins, editor
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