Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak repair shops’

Beech Grove Job Cuts May be Coming

April 26, 2019

In the wake of the Indiana legislature’s decision to cease funding the Chicago-Indianapolis Hoosier State, Amtrak is hinting that it may lay off workers at its Beech Grove shops in suburban Indianapolis.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said 500 jobs at Beech Grove could be a risk if Amtrak is only able to shuttle equipment to and from the shops on the three days a week that the Cardinal operates through Indianapolis.

The Indiana General Assembly on the recommendation of Gov. Eric Holcomb declined to renew the $3 million annual funding the state has been providing to Amtrak to operate the Hoosier State four days a week.

The legislature finalized the budget for the next two years earlier this week.

The Cardinal operates three days a week between Chicago and New York and serves all stations at which the Hoosier State stops.

However, an Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman defended ending Hoosier State funding.

“The Hoosier State has the lowest ridership and highest taxpayer subsidy per ticket sold of all Amtrak state sponsored routes,” said Scott Manning. “Today, ridership is stagnant. As a result of the low number of users, INDOT and local governments subsidize about 75 percent of the cost of each ticket sold on the Hoosier State. This does not represent a good value to Hoosier taxpayers.”

State funding of the Hoosier State will end on June 30. The train also receives $500,000 annually contributed by communities that it serves.

Amtrak earlier announced the Hoosier State will be suspended on July 1.

WISH-TV in Indianapolis quoted Beech Grove employee Danny Groves as saying that once the Hoosier State ends much of the shop’s work load will go away.

“Beech Grove was built around this [rail] yard. We know each other’s wives. We know each other’s families,” Groves said. “If this happens we’ll only be able to get equipment in three days a week.”

More than 400 people signed a petition asking the legislature to reconsider its decision to end funding of the Hoosier State.

Amtrak has faced before the situation that it is poised to have if the Hoosier State is discontinued.

In September 1995, the Hoosier State was eliminated in a route restructuring, leaving the tri-weekly Cardinal as Amtrak’s only service to Indianapolis.

It ferried equipment to and from Beech Grove via the Cardinal, which has operated as a tri-weekly train since January 1982.

Amtrak has also used a weekly “hospital” trains to move equipment between Chicago and Beech Grove.

But that train was subject to delay on host railroad CSX and crews sometimes had to halt due to having reached their limits under the federal hours of service law.

Amtrak cited delays to the Cardinal from switching equipment in and out in Indianapolis for resurrecting the Hoosier State in July 1998.

One difference between then and now is that a federal law adopted since then now makes state and local governments responsible for paying most of the costs of trains operating less than 750 miles.

That law precludes Amtrak assuming full funding of the Hoosier State.

But Beech Grove’s future at Amtrak was already tenuous before the Indiana legislature declined to continue funding it.

During a Congressional hearing in February Amtrak President Richard Anderson said that although Amtrak had no plans to close Beech Grove or reduce its workforce, its role at Amtrak was subject to change.

“Over time, we have to re-fleet the Amtrak rolling stock,” Anderson said, “. . . and over the longer term we have to figure out where we are going to do our maintenance work. I think the footprint is going to change over time because we’re moving to more modern equipment.”