Piedmonts to be Suspended, Carolinian Reinstated

Amtrak’s Piedmont Service trains 75 and 76 will be suspended after their trips on May 17 because the North Carolina Department of Transportation is trying to save money.

Piedmonts 73, 74, 77 and 78 had been suspended earlier due to ridership declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NCDOT officials said tax revenue is down sharply during the pandemic and the agency has been forced to trim spending.

However, service between Charlotte and Raleigh won’t vanish completely.

The New York-Charlotte Carolinian will resume operating on May 18 but will operate only between Charlotte and Raleigh.

NCDOT Director of the Rail Division Jason Orthner said the state hopes that resumption of service by the Carolinian to New York will happen sometime in June.

However, the Amtrak reservation system shows the Carolinian as operating north of Raleigh starting June 1.

Currently Piedmonts 75 and 76 are the only intercity rail service between Charlotte and Raleigh.

Orthner said suspending Piedmont Service will save NCDOT about $13,000 a day, primarily due to not operating the state-owned locomotives and passenger cars.

The equipment used on the Carolinian is owned by Amtrak.

He said NCDOT continues to pay Amtrak provide passenger rail service in North Carolina during the pandemic, though at a 20 percent discount because of a subsidy provided through the CARES Act.

How long the Piedmonts are suspended will depend on how long the pandemic lasts and when state finances improve.

“We don’t have a definitive timeframe yet,” Orthner said.

NCDOT is projecting a loss of $300 million less in revenue than expected in March, April and May, and forecasts losses will be higher in the coming year.

Officials have attributed the revenue loss to falling taxes collected from the fuel sale and fewer fees being paid to the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Under normal circumstances Amtrak operates four roundtrips between Charlotte and Raleigh per day, all funded by the state.

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