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Amtrak’s Empire Builder through Minot among routes being cut back in service because of COVID-19

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WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 03: A passenger passes by an Amtrak train September 3, 2015 at Union Station in Washington, DC. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson held a press availability to discuss Operation Railsafe. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Amtrak will cut service later this year on most of its long-distance routes nationwide to three times a week instead of the current daily service because ridership has fallen significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said Wednesday that the cuts will take effect Oct. 1 and remain in place until at least the summer of 2021, but daily service could be restored if demand improves along its long-distance routes.

The train routes being cut to three days week include the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, City of New Orleans, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited, Palmetto, Southwest Chief, and Texas Eagle. The Sunset Limited and Cardinal trains already operate three times a week.

Jim Mathews, president and chief executive of the Rail Passengers Association advocacy group, said he thinks the cuts are short-sighted and will hurt long-term demand for these routes.

“The long-distance services declined the least among Amtrak’s three business lines during the coronavirus-induced slowdown, and its services remain essential to the hundreds of small communities across the United States with fewer options than Philadelphia or Boston or New York City,” Mathews said.

Amtrak said its Auto Train, which runs from the Washington, D.C., suburbs to the Orlando, Florida, area, is the only long-distance route that will continue to operate

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