Effort underway to save Southwest Chief | KOB 4

Effort underway to save Southwest Chief

Megan Abundis
Updated: September 04, 2020 10:38 PM
Created: September 04, 2020 04:22 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- There’s an effort happening across the country to save the Southwest Chief. It’s a train route that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles and stops in Albuquerque. 

Amtrak recently announced it will be cutting down its service. But The New Mexico Rail Passengers Coalition is fighting back.

“A lot of people look at us like crazy when we’re sitting on the side of the road hours on end waiting for a train,” said Adrian Gurule, New Mexico Rail Passengers Coalition.

But that moment when the train’s light is seen barreling down the tracks is what Adrian Gurule lives for. He’s been chasing Amtrak’s for a long time, but says it’s for an important reason.

“I support long distance passenger rail,” he said. “It is a service I use, it is a service I pay for as a citizen, I demand that service to remain as is.”

He’s fighting to sustain the passenger rail system because recently Amtrak announced they would cut down the Southwest Chief to tri-weekly service starting in October because of low ridership.

But Gurule says that’s every transportation method during the pandemic.

“Is it really to save money or is it a method to terminate the route entirely by discouraging riders and travel,” he said. “That schedule is going to cause a really big ruckus in regards to persons that are wanting to have a connection in either Chicago or Los Angeles. If you want to leave on a Saturday you might have to leave on a Wednesday.”

So he’s trying to roll that effort to a stop.

“I like to photograph these trains as they are in action, the passengers, to show and illustrate that people use this service people love this service,” he said.

He says with reduced service, layovers could be lengthy and cause hardships for vendors and towns in New Mexico, saying it’s a part of their history.

“You’re going to have a lot of rural communities such as Las Vegas, New Mexico and Raton, New Mexico who take the Southwest Chief because a lot of rural communities don’t have specialists, or any type of special doctors, so they rely on the Southwest Chief especially our senior citizen community, they are the ones who are going to be most affected.”

Recently, Amtrak was given $1 billion under the CARES ACT. Congress said the money was given to help prevent furloughs. But just this week, more than 2,000 workers learned they would be out of a job.

Senator Tom Udall said he, too, is calling on Amtrak to restore jobs and service. 

“Amtrak’s announcement that they plan to lay off thousands of employees and reduce rail routes is a serious blow to our state and the nation. I urge Amtrak to reverse course on these layoffs which include hardworking New Mexicans who rely on their jobs at Amtrak to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. The reduced routes will also cut off smaller, rural communities from neighboring towns, cities and states. The Trump administration’s failure to contain COVID-19 continues to lead to more and more devastating consequences for the travel and tourism industries but it does not have to be this way. I am calling on Amtrak leadership to commit to restoring these jobs and service, and Congress needs to act to protect these routes and support local communities and Amtrak employees. The Southwest Chief is a critical engine of economic growth and commerce throughout our state, and that is why I support the Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund Act to permanently fund Amtrak. We need to invest in passenger rail to ensure that routes like the Southwest Chief – which connect rural communities throughout our state and bolster local economies – can stay running through this crisis and long into the future," Sen. Udall said in a statement. 

“It is our duty to make sure this train survives the next 100-150 years,” Gurule said.

This isn’t necessarily a done deal yet, Congress is expected to have hearings in the next couple of weeks.

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