Amtrak Service Cut Back in Rugby - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Amtrak Service Cut Back in Rugby

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Passenger train service across North Dakota has been disrupted by the high volume of rail shipments of various products.

West-bound traffic on Amtrak has been stopped between Grand Forks and Minot for the past several weeks.

That means passengers wanting to travel from the east to places like Devils Lake and Rugby have to ride a bus on the last leg of their trip.

This east-bound Amtrak train pulled into Rugby Monday morning - nearly 12 hours after its scheduled time, and even though this one was late, at least it's still coming through Rugby.

(Duane Veach, Rugby Amtrak Station Manager) "The trains have been operating just one direction through here - they've been all going eastbound."

Amtrak Station Chief Duane Veach says while the east-bound trains continue to roll into and out of the Rugby stop, west-bound trains have been replaced by buses, bringing people from Fargo.

(Duane Veach, Rugby Amtrak Station Manager) "The passengers seem accepting of it for the most part, it's not like there's really much choice. It's not something Amtrak decided to do, they're just following Burlington Northern's plan. "

Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad has shut out Amtrak from sending trains west along the main route across northern North Dakota - apparently because of the increase in east-bound trains carrying oil, grain, and other cargo from western North Dakota. It's something former Rugby mayor Dale Niewoehner has noticed - and catalogued for the past month.

(Dale Niewoehner, Former Rugby Mayor) "We found that almost all the trains are going east, hauling oil, grain, lumber, automobiles, pipes, things like that."

Niewoehner has been an advocate for Amtrak service in Rugby for decades. And he says he's in contact with Senator Heidi Heitkamp's office about the current situation. In addition, he says the National Association of Railroad Passengers has written to the US Transportation Secretary to complain about BNSF's move to alter Amtrak's route.

(Dale Niewoehner, Former Rugby Mayor) "Often you see Canadian cars at the parking lot so they come down here to get on the train to go somewhere. It's a concern."

In addition, the former mayor says he is concerned about the upswing in the total number of trains coming through Rugby. He's worried that people who frequently cross the tracks in Rugby may not be aware that trains are more frequently blocking crossings.

(Dale Niewoehner, Former Rugby Mayor) "We musn't have an accident of the railroad itself or a vehicle accident with the train. People must look and listen for trains."

Meanwhile, Niewoehner joins Veach in hoping to get full use of the BNSF line through Rugby as soon as possible.

(Duane Veach, Rugby Amtrak Station Manager) "I would and can safely speak for everyone else but right now we're just operating with the conditions at hand."

In Rugby, Jim Olson, KX News.

Rugby officials say they've been told the west-bound Amtrak train will return to its normal route in March.

And Amtrak agent Duane Veach stresses that the east-bound train is running normally across the entire state.

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