Amtrak is denying a claim from a railroad advocacy group that the government has considered substituting buses for trains on some long-distance routes, including the Empire Builder that serves La Crosse.
Spokesman Marc Magliari with Amtrak says the rail corporation did not have plans to cancel passenger train service on the Empire Builder route west of Minneapolis, and use buses to transport riders instead.
The charge was made this week in a release from the rail advocacy group All Aboard Minnesota, which claimed that it had confirmation from an Amtrak source that the service changes had been proposed.
All Aboard Minnesota said that rail supporters think the bus “threat” could re-emerge in the future.
Magliari says Congress is in the process of rewriting the charter for Amtrak, “and we’ve said to Congress, there might be better ways to offer service in some parts of the country than how we’re doing it now.”
“But it’s a Congressional decision, not an Amtrak decision,” said Magliari. “We’ll propose some ideas, but in no case are we suggesting that we do wholesale replacements of trains with buses.”
Brian Nelson, the president of All Aboard Minnesota, said Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson was studying a cutback on long rail routes.
Nelson says his group learned from a source within Amtrak and a bus company in the Twin Cities that Anderson wanted to reduce the number of cross-country trains.
“Richard Anderson has subsequently stated that while Amtrak runs 15 long-distance trains right now, they really only should be running 5 to 10,” said Nelson.
Magliari says La Crosse County is involved in a study to expand daily Amtrak service in the area.
The Empire Builder train makes one morning stop in La Crosse each day, as it heads east toward Chicago, and one stop in the evening during the westbound trip to Minneapolis.