There’s a remote possibility Amtrak could reroute passenger service through Clovis sometime within the next four years, according to a railroad spokesman.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the railroad is working with government agencies to find funding for maintaining deteriorating track along current routes for its Southwest Chief. The train carries passengers daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.
Magliari said decisions and financial commitments to keep the current route intact will be needed by the end of 2014. If they are not in place, steps will be taken to operate the train on a different route that could take it through Clovis by early 2016, according to Magliari.
“It is our preference, our strong preference, our desire to stay on the current route,” Magliari said.
Amtrak uses BNSF track on the current Southwest Chief route. BNSF has lowered speeds on some sections of track used by the passenger train because of deteriorating conditions.
Both railroads met with representatives from communities along the current route in April to explain the situation.
“In the meeting,” Magliari said in a press release, “Amtrak explained how changing freight traffic patterns mean BNSF’s remaining needs can be met with lower track speeds, making the line unsuitable for through passenger service.”
Without track improvements enabling higher speeds, the current route would not be tenable for Amtrak, Magliari said. BNSF has offered freight track suitable for higher-speed passenger service that would reroute the Southwest chief across northern Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle and through Clovis.
Passenger train service hasn’t been offered in Clovis since 1971.