April 09, 2018

Amtrak urged to release details about new policy | Huntington Herald Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — One West Virginia politician is urging Amtrak to provide more information on its new policy concerning private and charter trains.

Recently, Amtrak officials announced the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society will no longer be allowed to operate any private car moves out of Huntington on Amtrak's tri-weekly Cardinal train.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sent a letter to Richard Anderson, the president and chief executive officer of Amtrak, requesting that he provide more information to organizations on how they can appeal the newly established policy that would no longer allow Amtrak to accept private and charter trains.

Manchin said in his letter that he had also spoken to Anderson by telephone regarding the issue.

"As I mentioned in our call earlier this week, I have grave concerns about Amtrak's recent announcement that it would stop accepting private and charter trains," Manchin said in the letter. "This decision would have a destructive effect on West Virginia's economy and could potentially force local businesses to close their doors."

Manchin said the decision would have a devastating impact on the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, a nonprofit that he says has worked to showcase the important cultural impact of the railroad in southern West Virginia for over 59 years.

"Even though Collis P. Huntington pays Amtrak handsomely for its services and is careful to minimize its impact on Amtrak's arrival times, it received no prior notice of the change in policy," Manchin wrote in the letter to Anderson.

Manchin says this change affects not only organizations like Collis P. Huntington but also cities like Hinton, Huntington and Beckley that rely on its services for tourism and local business.

Manchin said during the telephone conversation with Anderson that he was encouraged to hear that Amtrak plans to allow some operators to apply for an exception and would review these challenges on a case-by-case basis.

It was announced at the end of March that by the end of April, Amtrak will no longer operate charter services or special trains.

"Given the limited revenue these services provide, it is difficult to justify the cost and operational resources," said Marc Magliari, public relations manager with Amtrak Government Affairs & Corporate Communications.

A brief notice of policy change was sent to Amtrak employees.

"These operations caused significant operational distraction, failed to capture fully allocated profitable margins and sometimes delayed our paying customers on our scheduled trains," the notice said.

"There may be a few narrow exceptions to this policy in order to support specific strategic initiatives, for example trial service in support of growing new scheduled service. Otherwise, one-time trips and charters are immediately discontinued," the notice added.

By:  Fred Pace