HAVRE – Along the Hi-line, two Amtrak stations are set to close June 1.
Locations in Shelby and Havre have plans to de-staff, but will remain open from 11am-4pm with caretakers for those still traveling.
City council held a meeting as a formal protest.
Statements were read by field staff from Senator Tester, Senator Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte.
On the phone was Amtrak Director of Government Affairs Rob Eaton.
Before taking questions, Eaton told those in attendance that nationwide around 94.4 % of passengers are buying their tickets online or on an app, and that both Shelby and Havre fell in the category of 18 stations across the country that has less than 40 passengers a day.
“Well we have airline services twice a day, other than that with Amtrak there’s no other type of transportation. People are getting older, they don’t want to drive and we had record snowfall, you couldn’t hardly move, and so Amtrak runs every day,” retired BNFS employee and Amtrak rider, Jerry Malkuch said.
One woman who says she’s one of the two employees at the Amtrak station spoke saying that around 7 out of 10 passengers in Havre buy their tickets at the station and pay in cash.
“Well, I think it’s devastating to the community, the community needs these passenger trains. Sometimes it’s the only way out of town,” retired BNSF employee, Gary Shelton said.
City officials and the residents of Havre are hoping come June 1 they can extend the closing of the station until they can get more answers from Amtrak.
(May 17, 2018) U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) urged Amtrak officials to reconsider cutting ticket agent jobs at Amtrak’s Havre and Shelby stations and to take action to ensure the transportation needs of rural Montanans are met, including adding a stop in Culbertson.
Daines made the remarks during a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meeting on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.
“The Empire Builder is critically important to keeping our rural communities connected, transporting out-of-state visitors to some of Montana’s pristine landscapes and supporting local economies,” said Daines in a press release. “Amtrak must take action to ensure the needs of Montanans and rural travelers are met.”
During the hearing, Daines expressed his concern regarding the loss of ticketing agent jobs at the Havre and Shelby stations and asked Stephen Gardner, the Executive Vice President of Amtrak, what actions Amtrak could take to support the local communities.
Gardner told Daines that Amtrak remains supportive of adding a stop at Culbertson once station infrastructure is in place.
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News
(May 7, 2018) The National Passenger Rail Corp. confirmed this morning that due to the volume of service there, it is eliminating the Amtrak staffed ticket office in Havre, effective June 1, putting two people out of work in Havre and requiring people to buy online, by phone or when they board the Empire Builder.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said almost all tickets — more than 9 out of 10 — are now purchased online or using Amtrak’s telephone ticket sale service, so the passenger rail service is eliminating some ticket offices.
“We have to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.
He added that the service is greatly appreciative of the work done by the Havre employees, and, based on seniority through their labor union, they could request a transfer to another location.
“These are not easy decisions for us,” Magliari said.
He said people will be able to buy tickets at the train, but that will eliminate getting any kind of deal such as through early booking. If space is available on the train, people can buy a ticket but paying in cash while boarding ensures they will pay the highest possible fare, he said.
For people who don’t use credit or debit cards, Magliari said Amtrak recommends people buy pre-paid cards, available at many outlets. As long as they are issued through a bank and have the logo of approved services — Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express — they can be used on the telephonic or online ticket purchasing services, he said. Cards such as a gift card to a specific store or restaurant cannot be used, he added.
“We encourage the use of prepaid cards rather than cash on the train,” Magliari said.
He said Amtrak still is looking at the baggage situation in Havre. People will not be able to check their luggage in at the ticket office, but at some locations Amtrak has started programs where people can tag their own luggage and check it in with an assistant conductor, he said. Amtrak is considering whether that option could be used in Havre, and should be making an announcement soon.
You can read more at the Havre Daily News website.
Reporting by Havre Daily News