Monday, March 20, 2006

Amtrak's Final Breaths?

Amtrak's acting chief, David Laney, appears committed to restructuring Amtrak's long-distance train service. Unless David Gunn's replacement, who likely won't be appointed until May, marshals support from heretofore silent corners or works a miracle, several of Amtrak's trains will be in severe danger. Most endangered: the Sunset Limited. Amtrak may opt to eliminate the train or shorten its route. The SL hasn't operated between Florida and New Orleans since October due to extensive damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Bolstering Amtrak's critics' case is the fact that the SL runs on schedule only 7% of the time.

I, unfortunately, haven't had the opportunity to ride the Sunset Limited, and it appears I may never. Already the experience is changing, as Amtrak replaces its full service diner with more microwave and pre-prepared meals. In the distance looms the prospect of Amtrak eliminating sleeper cars, parlour cars and other first class amenities we've come to know and love. Tomorrow morning I will ride the Crescent, and I'll provide an update on the status of its dining car. I'll also chat with the waitresses and kitchen staff to gauge their reaction to the changes.


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