Amtrak restoring daily Southwest Chief service

Photo credit: Tyler Silvest

Amtrak plans to restore daily passenger rail service across Kansas after President Joe Biden signed the new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill into law.

Amtrak plans to bring daily service back to the Southwest Chief and 11 other long-distance routes by this summer with the $1.5 billion included in the bill for passenger rail.

The Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles with stops in Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City.

The service was cut to three times a week last October in response to falling ridership stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Southwest Chief is expected to return to daily rail service May 31.

“Offering daily long distance service represents a vital step in our road to recovery,” Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement.

“Recognizing the immense value of our employees, we’d like to thank Congress for enabling service restoration and helping us recall furloughed employees.”

Amtrak also will recall the more than 1,200 furloughed employees through the remainder of fiscal year 2021 and into 2022.

Amtrak is bringing the long-distance service back in phases, starting with four routes on May 24.

Daily service on the Southwest Chief will resume on May 31 along with three other routes.

All 12 routes are expected to be restored to daily service by June 7.

From October through January, there were about 28,200 riders on the Southwest Chief, down from about 101,000 from the same period for the previous fiscal year.

Overall, Amtrak ridership on 15-long distance routes was at about 463,000, down from about 1.4 million for the first four months of the federal fiscal year starting Oct. 1.