U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D – Mont.) recently criticized the Trump administration for budget proposals that would cut funding for Amtrak rural services, especially the Montana Empire Builder line, and wrote Amtrak’s President Richard Anderson asking for accountability and answers.
“Congress purposely created a national network of long-distance and state-supported train service throughout the nation, in recognition of the importance of a transportation system that reaches every community — regardless of how rural it may be. Amtrak is more than a collection of individual train routes: it is a web of essential connections that bind our country together and link rural communities with major markets and economic opportunities. It provides residents of these communities with transportation options on which families, seniors, and businesses rely to access jobs, create economic opportunities, see our beautiful country. and visit family,” Tester’s letter to Anderson stated. “The federal investment in Amtrak ensures the small, mid-size, and rural communities served by Amtrak’s long-distance and state-supported routes continue to receive this essential service.”
Tester also posed the question to Amtrak as to why ticket agents have been eliminated and questioned the accounting methods the carrier is using to determine the cost of long-distance services. He also questioned leadership’s claims that long-distance service is down despite 2017 figures that showed that ridership is up 10.6% from the previous eight years. He asked that Amtrak address his questions by no later than April 29.
Sen. Tester’s bipartisan letter includes signatures from 10 other senators, including Tom Udall, Michael Bennet, Pat Roberts, Cory Gardner, Jerry Moran, Catherine Cortez Masto, Martin Heinrich, Joe Manchin III, Dick Durbin and Kyrsten Sinema.
In other news, Amtrak’s Hoosier State line also is on the chopping block due to Indiana backing out on funding for the 196-mile Amtrak route. The carrier has stopped ticket sales for the Chicago-to-Indianapolis Hoosier State line after July 1.