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Amtrak May End Passenger Rail Service In Western Kansas. Moran: “Amtrak Is Not Doing Its Job”

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By Ben Kuebrich – Kansas News Service/High Plains Public Radio

Amtrak may end passenger rail service through Dodge City, Garden City and destinations to the west.

The agency told a congressional delegation last week that it might shut down parts of the Southwest Chief route that runs across Kansas on its way between Chicago and Los Angeles. That news followed ongoing disputes about track maintenance and upgrades.
Amtrak told Congress ridership on the line has been falling in recent years, and that the service loses about $50 million a year. But U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said that’s not the point.

“Amtrak is not doing its job,” Moran told the Kansas News Service on Thursday. “It was created to support long-distance passenger rail service, and it ought to be much more supportive of the Southwest Chief than it is today.”

Steve Cottrell, assistant to the City Manager of Garden City, said cities on the route have helped maintain the tracks. He’s taken aback that despite that Amtrak may still end service between Albuquerque and Dodge City.

“All of these communities for the last several years have been putting in funding, working with Amtrak,” said Cottrell. “We’re shocked, concerned. We don’t want to lose our service, it’s a key link for all of our citizens.”

Amtrak suggested replacing the train service between the two stations, but Cottrell thinks such a stop-gap would just be the beginning of the end for the line.

“Are these people that ride the trains to go on vacation just going to start driving?” said Cottrell. “Replacing it with a bus line that takes you somewhere that you catch the train, it’s not the same.”

Moran said the bussing proposal signaled a lack of commitment to the Southwest Chief.

Amtrak is expected to release an updated analysis on the Southwest Chief in July.

In the meantime, Moran said he’s put holds on nominations to Amtrak’s board. He and Senator Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat,  have put language in the appropriations bill for Amtrak requiring the agency to consult with communities along the route before changing service.

“We are going to do everything we can to see that we reverse the direction that Amtrak is headed,” Moran said.

Ben Kuebrich reports for High Plains Public Radio in Garden City and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and HPPR covering health, education and politics. Follow him on @Ben_Kuebrich. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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