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Amtrak debunks AV train rumor

Despite rumblings that Amtrak intends to stop service of the Texas Eagle which makes two stops per day at the Arcadia Valley Station, a spokesman with the passenger railroad minced no words in quashing the rumor.

“We have no plans to discontinue or truncate the Texas Eagle,” Marc Magliari, Amtrak Government Affairs and Corporate Communications spokesman, said when asked if plans were in the works to put an end to Amtrak service to the Arcadia Valley, as well as other stops along the 152 miles of Union Pacific’s De Soto subdivision, south of St. Louis.

Amtrak service to the Iron County towns of Ironton, Pilot Knob and Arcadia began in November 2016, following years of phone calls, letters, emails and one-on-one visits by Our Town Tomorrow President Carol Kelsheimer and member Judy Schaaf-Wheeler, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to bring the old train station up to 21st century standards.

Concerns were raised when an article appeared last month in Trains magazine, reported that Stephen Gardner, Amtrak senior vice president and chief commercial officer, had issued a statement following a meeting held in Raton, New Mexico, that Amtrak has decided to cease operation of passenger trains on lines without Positive Train Control (PTC) after Dec. 31.

According to Amtrak, PTC is a safety technology designed to match train speed to track conditions providing an added layer of safety.

Gardner further stated that Amtrak’s board of directors had mandated the policy despite exemptions given for the technology’s implementation that had been granted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

According to the article, other trains on FRA-exempted routes headed for discontinuation included the Southwest Chief – between La Junta, Colorado, and Dailies, New Mexico, and through Topeka, Kansas; Cardinal – over the Buckingham Branch Railroad between Orange and Clifton Forge, Virginia; California Zephyr – 152 miles of Union Pacific’s Green River subdivision west of Grand Junction, Colorado; Downeaster – north of Haverhill, Massachusetts, to Brunswick, Maine, on Pan Am Railways; Vermonter – north of Springfield, Massachusetts, on the New England Central; Ethan Allen – on Vermont Railway east of Whitehall, N.Y.; and City of New Orleans – around Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans.

Insisting that Trains’ reporting of the meeting had been inaccurate, Magliari said, “Where Positive Train Control (PTC) is not implemented and operational, it is expected that nearly all carries will qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule under law.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under a Federal Railroad Administration-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network.

“For those very limited routes where a host may not achieve an alternative schedule by year’s end, Amtrak will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance.”

Dr. Bill Pollard, president of the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization (TEMPO), believes Arcadia Valley residents have little need to be concerned that it may soon lose its hard won Amtrak train station.

“At this point, we do not believe that the Eagle is at risk, although there is concern about the section of track from Cadet, Missouri, to Poplar Bluff,” he said. “The FRA has said that PTC is not needed on this segment because of low traffic volume, but Amtrak may be taking the position that PTC is required on all track they operate over.

“This will likely be overruled by the FRA or the U.S. Department of Transportation. Everyone is just waiting to see what language comes with the final appropriations bill — now scheduled to go to conference. If the Senate language prevails, demanding that Amtrak continue operating a full national system, that should solve the problem.”

“We have no plans to discontinue or truncate the Texas Eagle.” — Marc Magliari, Amtrak

In this file photo, Arcadia Valley residents gather late in the evening as Amtrak's Texas Eagle makes its first official stop at the city's train station on Nov. 18, 2016. The city worked hard for almost a decade to win Amtrak's approval for the stop. Rumors of the route being discontinued at the end of the year have been officially debunked.

In this file photo, Arcadia Valley residents gather late in the evening as Amtrak’s Texas Eagle makes its first official stop at the city’s train station on Nov. 18, 2016. The city worked hard for almost a decade to win Amtrak’s approval for the stop. Rumors of the route being discontinued at the end of the year have been officially debunked.

The historic Arcadia train station was given new life after undergoing extensive work to make it suitable to be an Amtrak stop.

The historic Arcadia train station was given new life after undergoing extensive work to make it suitable to be an Amtrak stop.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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