Everything may be in place for the return of passenger train service to the Gulf Coast next year. The last train carrying passengers from Mobile He left the station in 2005. The last regular service between Mobile and New Orleans was about half a century ago. But now, after years of work and lengthy negotiations, supporters are confident that 2023 will be the year trains run along the Gulf once again.
“Basically, all I can say is we have an agreement between Mobile and New Orleans that will be a 3 hour 23 minute run time,” said Knox Ross. He is the chairman of the Southern Railway Commission. This is he three state agencies working to restore passenger rail service in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
“We have worked very hard with our partners to achieve that and I think everyone is very happy with the result,” he said.
The plan faced initial opposition from groups such as freight forwarders. They owned the tracks and didn’t want their schedules disrupted by passenger trains. Port of Mobile officials also expressed concern about how a train hitting Mobile near its line to the docks would affect its operations. Knox Ross says all parties have reached an agreement, but the details are still confidential.
“But I think everyone is happy with the outcome of what happened,” argues Ross. Host Railroad, we worked hard to make it a win-win for travelers.I think it was a success.I think everyone is really happy with it.I’m happy.”
The plan calls for two trains to run twice daily between Mobile and New Orleans. Trains leave each city in the morning and return in the evening.
“We plan to make two trips a day,” Ross said. “It’s going to be AM and PM really. It’s going to be something Mobile hasn’t seen in his 50 years, but we’re still working out everything when it comes to details.”
Ticket prices haven’t been decided yet, but they will be reasonable, Ross said.
“We have to compare it to other similar services around the country, such as Chicago to Milwaukee service and Downeaster,” speculated Ross. “I can’t speak to Amtrak about what they charge, but it’s very reasonable. It would be a lot cheaper to get from here to New Orleans than to drive over there and park your car.” But until we know exactly how the schedule works, we can get a good idea of what passenger numbers will be. Part of the problem we have is because we need to provide transportation for everyone.”
Amtrak’s website lists a one-way bus ticket from Chicago to Milwaukee for $25. Ross says the negotiations went well, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“There are a lot of moving parts to get there. Amtrak talked about equipment issues and things. needs improvement, and once everything is on track, we will have an accurate idea of what we can navigate,” he said.
Amtrak is also preparing the tracks for reopening, Ross said.
“The next milestone that people can look for is what Amtrak has to do is start qualifying for crew members,” he said. “So you have to throw Amtrak equipment on the line to qualify for the crew.
Mark Magliari is a spokesperson for Amtrak. He says the line is ready to resume service between Mobile and New Orleans.
“We are in a very exciting place in the United States, and of course on the Gulf Coast,” said Magliari. “We have agreements with other parties involved in providing service to the Gulf and they say people across the country want Amtrak service. We have federal partners who will help us in ways that don’t happen.We look forward to serving the Gulf Coast.We can’t speak specifically about the agreement at this time, but we look forward to serving the Gulf Coast. I am doing it.”
Magliari said ticket prices are up to local agencies, either the Southern Railway Commission or the state government.
“The state-sponsored trains are operated by us under contract with the entity. Could be the Southern Railroad Commission. It could be one of the DOT. is done by the people who hire us to run the trains,” he pointed out. “The fares are kept as low as possible. Other states have the philosophy of making it as cheap as possible to get as many people on the train as possible. That’s not Amtrak’s decision.”
The last passenger train to run on the Gulf Coast was the Sunset Limited, which ran between California and Florida. The train stopped at Mobile about three times a week, usually early in the morning. The service stopped after Hurricane Katrina destroyed railroad tracks in Mississippi in 2005. Knox said the tracks were repaired, but service was not resumed.
David Clark, one of Alabama’s four Southern Rail Commissioners, said:
“This is moving forward. It looks like a deal has been made. A lot of work has been done by a lot of people. I think,” he said.
Clark is also President of Visit Mobile. It is the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said the revival of passenger trains would be of great benefit to the city and state.
“So what a great opportunity for a multi-portal kind of transportation. Foreign travelers coming from New Orleans. is,” he said.
Clark said research shows that the service brings thousands of visitors to the area.
“Southern Mississippi did a survey a couple of years ago about visitation and what it was. rice field. “There was another higher number and another higher number. I always like to be conservative, so at least he believes 16,000 new visitors are coming.”
Clark says the train will be a link between communities with common heritage in three states along the Gulf Coast.
“Often, people don’t talk about the benefits of integrating coastal communities and cultures, the different people and the people they meet, making places in the community and how to build it. It’s a really fun thing to think about, and I think it’s an experience that we might be able to put at the table again in the near future,” he believed.
It’s been a long wait for that experience, but if all goes according to plan, that wait could end next year.
“I think what happens is people start to see concrete work being done. increase. That’s the announcement, yes, we’re going to do it, but what they’re going to see is concrete work being done, and when they see concrete work, they say, ‘Yes, “This is part of running a train,” said Clarke, “and people will be very excited because they will see that it is real.”