UPDATE (3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3): Marc Magliari, senior public relations manager, said Amtrak is providing chartered buses from Thursday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Aug. 7 as a replacement for the Carl Sandburg train. Customers who already purchased Amtrak tickets have been notified of the change.
My morning Amtrak train from Chicago to Quincy got cancelled Tuesday. My daughter’s Saturday and Sunday trains from Chicago to Quincy just got cancelled. What’s going on?
Marc Magliari, senior public relations manager, says Amtrak is temporarily suspending the Carl Sandburg train that goes from Chicago to Quincy in the morning and from Quincy to Chicago in the evening. Amtrak plans for the service to return on Monday, Aug. 8.
Why is the service suspended?
“We have a shortage of railcars because we have a shortage of people to work on the trains,” Magliari said Tuesday. “We’ve been pretty public about this shortage.
“If you know someone who wants to move up to Chicago and work on our trains, and they put my name down, I will get $3,500 bucks. In other parts of the country where we need conductors and engineers, the bounty is $2,500. I know in one case we paid for relocation from Wyoming to Florida just to work on our trains. It’s important that we get people in these jobs so we can restore services.”
The Washington Post reported the Federal Railroad Administration last month awarded Amtrak an $8 million grant for a worker training program, an investment that could boost the railroad’s recruitment and retention amid a national worker shortage. In December, the railroad had1,500 fewer employees than at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Amtrak will use the federal grant to launch a three-year mechanical training program in 2022, setting up training hubs in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Wilmington, Del., and Beech Grove, Ind.
Magliari said the current lack of employees has forced one of two round trips from Carbondale to Chicago to be cancelled, as well as a trip from Chicago to New Orleans. He believes the temporary cancellation of the Carl Sandburg route is an “isolated occasion.”
The route and times for the Illinois Zephyr, which provides morning service to Chicago and evening service to Quincy, remain unchanged.
Magliari said Amtrak will reach out to customers when trains are cancelled so they can rebook their trips or get refunds.
Despite the lack of employees, Magliari says national Amtrak numbers are at about 80 percent of what they were before the pandemic started in March 2020.
“That’s quite an accomplishment, considering we’re not running all the services we were running pre-COVID,” he said. “The trains themselves are smaller than they might be in a normal summer because of the shortages of people to keep them in good repair, and we’re still about 80 percent. That tells you about the essential nature of our service.”
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