Proposed cuts to Amtrak's long distance trains may mean one less train serving Galesburg. It doesn't sound like a lot. It's one train.

The train that's on the chopping block is Amtrak's Southwest Chief. A long distance train that serves Chicago, Galesburg, Kansas City, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. It's the train that provides service to Chicago from Galesburg in the middle of the day (providing it's relatively on time.) The elimination of this train would force travelers going to Chicago to depart around 7:30AM CT or 7:00PM CT.

According to WQAD the Trump Administration and Amtrak are proposing cuts to Amtrak's long distance routes. The Southwest Chief being a route the company wants to cut completely because it's not profitable. Senator Durban says, "the signals we have been receiving are not encouraging because when it comes to long-distance service, they have been talking about some pretty serious cutbacks."

It's not a new issue either. Amtrak was created by the federal government because moving passengers wasn't profitable and private railroads wanted to be relieved of the obligation. Amtrak was actually created to fail in it's first year. The idea being the government could say they tried to do it. It didn't work and move on. The gas shortage in Amtrak's early years saved the company because people took the trains.

Amtrak's been a favorite punching bag of politicians trying to make a point about government waste ever since because the company, or parts of it, aren't profitable. That said, the modest budget Amtrak gets from Congress is never enough to keep up with infrastructure improvements, equipment needs, and service needs that would make the rail network stronger. For much of it's existence when it comes to long distance service Amtrak has had to fight to keep the status quo.

Regionally, service out of Chicago to places in the Midwest have grown. Much of that is due to state investment in the services Amtrak provides. For example the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg, two other trains that stop in Galesburg are funded by the State of Illinois, not Amtrak.

This is just my observation, but if the Southwest Chief were to go away the State of Illinois could add another round trip to the Illinois service between Quincy and Chicago that stops in Galesburg. That seems to be where Amtrak management wants to take their railroad anyway. Creating new regional services they provide, that the states pay for. Perhaps that's what Senator Durbin was alluding to when he said, "we will be working to come up with something on the congressional side that we hope can be more helpful to the communities served."


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