U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) is concerned with Amtrak’s recent decision to suspend morning train service between Quincy and Chicago until Jan. 16 and replace it with bus service.
In a recent letter, Durbin emphasized that the suspension of service has serious economic consequences for Illinois constituents, many of whom are now left without transportation to and from their jobs.
“I am concerned by Amtrak’s recent decision to suspend morning train service between Quincy and Chicago. Amtrak passenger service provides a vital link between communities in Illinois that my constituents rely on every day to access jobs, education, health care services, and their families,” the letter said. “Abruptly cancelling service on these trains will have significant impacts on the daily lives of my constituents and the economies of the communities along the route.”
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that train service is expected to be restored Jan. 16, since Amtrak plans to have more engineers by that time.
The Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr Trains 380 and 381, which normally operate mornings between Chicago and Quincy (including Galesburg and Kewanee), have been replaced with chartered buses as alternate transportation.
These buses will originate in Quincy and Chicago on the same departure times of Trains 380 and 381 and will mimic the train schedules as much as possible, Amtrak said. They will not leave the intermediate stops ahead of the train schedule and will be subject to highway delays.
While Amtrak has provided bus service to cover the suspension of the Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr trains, Durbin reiterated that this temporary solution won’t be able to meet the true transportation needs of those in the Quincy area. Durbin then called on Amtrak to restore passenger service quickly.
“These trains provide service to more than 5,000 passengers on average per month,” he said. “Unfortunately, these riders now will face considerable travel disruptions over the next two months. The suspension also raises reasonable questions about how the reliability of the service Amtrak is providing will impact future ridership on these trains. While I understand you are providing charter bus service for the next two months to replace the suspended trains, this is not an acceptable substitute for reliable passenger rail service.”
Durbin concluded his letter by advising Amtrak to work with rail labor unions to prevent and resolve any future disruptions to passenger service.
“I encourage you to work together with the rail labor unions to implement a more reliable workforce plan that will avoid any disruptions of passenger service in the future,” he wrote. “I also request a briefing on the current workforce plans, including hiring and training timelines, for all Illinois Amtrak routes to better understand Amtrak’s efforts to ensure continued, reliable, and on-time passenger service is provided to all Illinois riders.”