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What if train is cancelled?


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#1 moonbeam

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 01:38 AM

Right now I'm in Seattle (got here via the Pennsylvanian/Capital Limited/Empire builder).

I have return tickets back home for the Coast Starlight to Sacramento, then transferring to the CZ to Chicago
(then back to Pennsylvania). Right now Amtrak is saying that the CZ will not be running up to June 20th.
My CZ reservation is for June 21st. I tried to switch my reservation and leave Seattle on the Empire Builder
on June 21st, but Amtrak said it would cost me $900 more to do that. (If I did it myself online, she said it was
less than 7 days and sleeper could not be refunded for money if it's less than the 7 day minimum).

They told me to just "wait and See"
So for now, I have tickets and will leave from Seattle on June 20th and arrive in Sacramento on June 21st.
If Amtrak says they are NOT running the CZ from Sacramento to Chicago on that day, where does that leave me?
Do they just leave me in Sacramento and give me my money back. From what they agent on the phone said,
they would just cancel the train and give every one refunds.
BUT HOW WOULD I GET HOME? They don't seem to have any answers to this question.
I can't fly (due to medical reasons, and it would be a very very long drive across the country).
If only they would just reroute me now on the EB, it would solve all the problems that might occur later.

Does anyone have any suggestions or know what would happen if AMTRAK cancels the CZ and I'm stuck in Sacramento?

#2 Amtrak OBS Gone Freight

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 04:03 AM

Right now I'm in Seattle (got here via the Pennsylvanian/Capital Limited/Empire builder).

I have return tickets back home for the Coast Starlight to Sacramento, then transferring to the CZ to Chicago
(then back to Pennsylvania). Right now Amtrak is saying that the CZ will not be running up to June 20th.
My CZ reservation is for June 21st. I tried to switch my reservation and leave Seattle on the Empire Builder
on June 21st, but Amtrak said it would cost me $900 more to do that. (If I did it myself online, she said it was
less than 7 days and sleeper could not be refunded for money if it's less than the 7 day minimum).

They told me to just "wait and See"
So for now, I have tickets and will leave from Seattle on June 20th and arrive in Sacramento on June 21st.
If Amtrak says they are NOT running the CZ from Sacramento to Chicago on that day, where does that leave me?
Do they just leave me in Sacramento and give me my money back. From what they agent on the phone said,
they would just cancel the train and give every one refunds.
BUT HOW WOULD I GET HOME? They don't seem to have any answers to this question.
I can't fly (due to medical reasons, and it would be a very very long drive across the country).
If only they would just reroute me now on the EB, it would solve all the problems that might occur later.

Does anyone have any suggestions or know what would happen if AMTRAK cancels the CZ and I'm stuck in Sacramento?


Well, I will suggest this. The fact you need to get home appears to be a major priority. So no matter the cost (within reason... $900 is kinda extreme) or the means, you should have either have something else already lined up for yourself or at least have some sort of backup plan to fall back on just in case. As far as I am concerned, this needs to be done ON YOUR OWN! Now in regard to the Amtrak part, I would press the issue a little more and talk to another agent or a manager if necessary. Be firm and ascertive, but stay calm. The "Empire Builder" routing you state is obviously best scenario for you based on your information. But in any event, get some kind of backup plan ready to fall on if you should need it (even though most people do not do this which is ashame). The nice thing about having a "plan B" is if you have that backup plan in place then you can always deal with Amtrak at a later date without nearly as much of inconvenience to yourself as far as the "getting home" part! It is mostly a matter of what your "priorities" are. Are they finances or the inconveniences of being stranded? It is probably a combination of both if I am correct, but you'll need to decide what's most important. I personally, have a plan in place at anytime I travel that I may be able to resort to in the case of normal service going awry! That plan ranges in emergency cash/credit card in order to book a last minute hotel, or a last minute travel option, etc. I have in the past decided to take my chances and deal with the possible inconveniences I may incur, but I will at least be able to find a hotel room and the rest I will deal with as it happens.

So anyway, good luck to you.

OBS gone freight...

#3 AlanB

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 06:32 AM

A few thoughts Moonbeam.

First, at least from your post it's not clear, and I wonder if the agent was clear or not. You say that you were told that the train for the 20th is not going to go through. But is that indeed the train departing SAC on the 20th? Or did the agent simply mean that the 21st would be the first day that a train runs through the flooded area? There is a big difference, as a train that runs through on the 21st would be the train that left SAC on the 19th. It takes two days to reach the flooded area from SAC.

So you need to find out specifically are we talking about the train that leaves SAC on the 21st and gets to the flooded area on the 23rd that will be the first one through to Chicago, or is it the train that leaves today on the 19th that will get to the flooded area on the 21st that will be the first one through.

Second, while the agent is correct that the sleeper fares aren't refundable since it's within the 7 day window, the agent should have mentioned that the full amount of that CZ ticket including the sleeper can be applied to a ticket on the EB. You can't book the EB online, you'll have to make a reservation by phone and then complete the transaction at a manned station or just visit the station to get it done.

Finally, the CZ isn't being cancelled in Sacramento, even with the flooding it's still running as far as Denver. So technically if they don't run your train through, you'd be stranded in Denver, not Sacramento. And in this case, I can't blame Amtrak for basically leaving you stranded. This flooding is extraordinary; most roads are closed too, so bussing isn't an option. And it wouldn't surprise me if flights are pretty fully booked around the flooding too.
Alan,

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#4 Rail Freak

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:53 AM

A few thoughts Moonbeam.

First, at least from your post it's not clear, and I wonder if the agent was clear or not. You say that you were told that the train for the 20th is not going to go through. But is that indeed the train departing SAC on the 20th? Or did the agent simply mean that the 21st would be the first day that a train runs through the flooded area? There is a big difference, as a train that runs through on the 21st would be the train that left SAC on the 19th. It takes two days to reach the flooded area from SAC.

So you need to find out specifically are we talking about the train that leaves SAC on the 21st and gets to the flooded area on the 23rd that will be the first one through to Chicago, or is it the train that leaves today on the 19th that will get to the flooded area on the 21st that will be the first one through.

Second, while the agent is correct that the sleeper fares aren't refundable since it's within the 7 day window, the agent should have mentioned that the full amount of that CZ ticket including the sleeper can be applied to a ticket on the EB. You can't book the EB online, you'll have to make a reservation by phone and then complete the transaction at a manned station or just visit the station to get it done.

Finally, the CZ isn't being cancelled in Sacramento, even with the flooding it's still running as far as Denver. So technically if they don't run your train through, you'd be stranded in Denver, not Sacramento. And in this case, I can't blame Amtrak for basically leaving you stranded. This flooding is extraordinary; most roads are closed too, so bussing isn't an option. And it wouldn't surprise me if flights are pretty fully booked around the flooding too.

So, does this mean NO Gaurantee to destination by Amtrak? :unsure:

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#5 da40flyer

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:33 AM

A few thoughts Moonbeam.

First, at least from your post it's not clear, and I wonder if the agent was clear or not. You say that you were told that the train for the 20th is not going to go through. But is that indeed the train departing SAC on the 20th? Or did the agent simply mean that the 21st would be the first day that a train runs through the flooded area? There is a big difference, as a train that runs through on the 21st would be the train that left SAC on the 19th. It takes two days to reach the flooded area from SAC.

So you need to find out specifically are we talking about the train that leaves SAC on the 21st and gets to the flooded area on the 23rd that will be the first one through to Chicago, or is it the train that leaves today on the 19th that will get to the flooded area on the 21st that will be the first one through.

Second, while the agent is correct that the sleeper fares aren't refundable since it's within the 7 day window, the agent should have mentioned that the full amount of that CZ ticket including the sleeper can be applied to a ticket on the EB. You can't book the EB online, you'll have to make a reservation by phone and then complete the transaction at a manned station or just visit the station to get it done.

Finally, the CZ isn't being cancelled in Sacramento, even with the flooding it's still running as far as Denver. So technically if they don't run your train through, you'd be stranded in Denver, not Sacramento. And in this case, I can't blame Amtrak for basically leaving you stranded. This flooding is extraordinary; most roads are closed too, so bussing isn't an option. And it wouldn't surprise me if flights are pretty fully booked around the flooding too.

So, does this mean NO Gaurantee to destination by Amtrak? :unsure:


I can't imagine how they can possibly guarantee a destination anywhere around that area under the circumstances since flooding is way out of their control.

#6 AlanB

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 09:39 AM

I can't imagine how they can possibly guarantee a destination anywhere around that area under the circumstances since flooding is way out of their control.


Exactly.
Alan,

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#7 Rail Freak

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:38 AM

I can't imagine how they can possibly guarantee a destination anywhere around that area under the circumstances since flooding is way out of their control.


Exactly.

So, Moonbeam is just stuck brtween a rock & hard place? No refund on room portion & no way to get home.
I guess the only option is to postpone the trip?

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#8 PRR 60

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:41 AM

Interstate 80 across Iowa is open. If they could get buses, they could run buses. They either cannot get buses, or don't want to get buses.

I cannot understand Amtrak enforcing the seven-day cancellation rule for sleeper accommodations given the circumstances. On one hand they cannot guarantee that the train will be running on the 23rd. On the other hand, they say no refund or reroute (without repricing) unless the train is cancelled. A little flexibility is needed. An even-up exchange now to the Empire Builder does not seem unreasonable. At worst, it would cost them the incremental fare. At best, it would save them one more irate customer who gets stranded with the infamous "no alternate transportation" notice.

#9 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 12:05 PM

Under extreme circumstances, (record floods, collapsing mountains, major metropolitan areas being practically demolished by major hurricanes, etc.) Amtrak will break their guarantee. I imagine that given the flood situation, bussing would be almost impossible. I'd imagine that what busses can run to that area, and have willing drivers, are booked solid for other things. With flights being the only (relatively) guaranteed out, flying passengers is also likely impossible. Amtrak works miracles from time to time, but can't do it every day, and can't perform the impossible.
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#10 Rail Freak

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 12:48 PM

Under extreme circumstances, (record floods, collapsing mountains, major metropolitan areas being practically demolished by major hurricanes, etc.) Amtrak will break their guarantee. I imagine that given the flood situation, bussing would be almost impossible. I'd imagine that what busses can run to that area, and have willing drivers, are booked solid for other things. With flights being the only (relatively) guaranteed out, flying passengers is also likely impossible. Amtrak works miracles from time to time, but can't do it every day, and can't perform the impossible.


Just one of life's unfortunate things, but still a shame! <_<

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#11 Joel N. Weber II

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 03:01 PM

moonbeam, who at Amtrak did you talk to? I get the impression that if you ask for ``customer service'' when you get connected to a person after calling Amtrak, and perhaps then ask to speak to a supervisor, you may be more likely to be speaking to someone who is empowered to change your routing without charging you more than you've already paid, though I'm not entirely clear on how this works.

Even if your reservation is for the first day Amtrak does manage to run the train, rerouting you to a train that has been running consistently is probably in Amtrak's best interest, because there are probably lots of other Amtrak customers who aren't in a good position to switch to the Empire Builder, some of whom probably want to take the first California Zephyr that does run and haven't yet been able to get space on that train. You might even consider discussing with Amtrak's customer service whether this is the case before making your request, suggesting to them that this change would be a win for both you and Amtrak, and hanging up and calling back (maybe even at a different time of day; I don't know how many supervisors are in customer service) if the person you talk to doesn't seem to think you'd be doing Amtrak a favor by switching to the Empire Builder.

Edited by Joel N. Weber II, 19 June 2008 - 10:30 PM.


#12 PRR 60

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 04:01 PM

...With flights being the only (relatively) guaranteed out, flying passengers is also likely impossible.

Plenty of open seats on flights between Denver and Chicago and Omaha and Chicago. Amtrak does not use air as alternate transporation.

...Amtrak works miracles from time to time, but can't do it every day, and can't perform the impossible.

Allowing the OP to switch to the Empire Builder at no extra charge falls clearly into the "possible" category. Not permitting that in the face of uncertainty with the Zephyr is not smart.

Edited by PRR 60, 19 June 2008 - 04:01 PM.


#13 Chatter163

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 04:22 PM

When the Sunset Limited on which I had a bedroom was cancelled at the last minute several years back, due to a freight derailment blocking the tracks for several days, I was able to switch to the Silver Star, Capitol Limited and Southwest Chief at no charge, bedrooms all the way. I initiated the request, but Amtrak honored it. They even helped me get into contact with Amtrak Vacations. Otherwise, they said, they would fully refund my fare.

#14 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 08:32 PM

...Amtrak works miracles from time to time, but can't do it every day, and can't perform the impossible.

Allowing the OP to switch to the Empire Builder at no extra charge falls clearly into the "possible" category. Not permitting that in the face of uncertainty with the Zephyr is not smart.


I'd agree with that sentiment. I was just pointing out to RailFreak that there are rare circumstances where Amtrak doesn't meet their transportation obligation, but that such are rare. Suspending the Zephyr, in this instance, No Alternate Transportation makes sense. I agree with you that not re-ticketing her on the EB gratis does not
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#15 jackal

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 01:04 AM

Most common carriers have a clause in their contract of carriage (say that five times fast!) that absolves them of responsibility for providing alternate transportation or compensating the customer for delays due to acts of God. So Amtrak is well within its rights to not fly customers (Amtrak actually occasionally does fly people--it's very rare and usually only when it's Amtrak's fault due to a missed connection and altrenate arrangements simply cannot be made) or otherwise pay for alternate transportation.

Airlines do this too--think of the giant Midwest ice storm a couple of years ago ('06, IIRC) or the huge snowstorm that closed DEN for several days that same winter--airlines weren't flying and people were stranded. They didn't pay for people to take Amtrak or rent cars or anything--they could either get their tickets refunded and find their own alternate transportation or they could wait in the airport for the airlines to start flying.

Amtrak's in effect doing the same thing: people can either wait for the waters to recede and the trains to start running or they can cancel and find their own alternate transportation. It's not fair to expect them to pay Greyhound or other bus companies to transport passengers because of a weather-related stoppage.

However, I do agree that Amtrak is in the wrong by not allowing people to reroute on alternate trains like the EB--during the DEN shutdown, airlines rerouted passengers who were scheduled to connect through DEN (but not stop there) to connect through other cities. Amtrak should at least do the same. (If there is spare equipment sitting due to canceled trains, perhaps they could add a few cars to the still-running trains to compensate for the extra loads.)

Edited by jackal, 20 June 2008 - 01:05 AM.

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#16 Joel N. Weber II

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 01:08 AM

(If there is spare equipment sitting due to canceled trains, perhaps they could add a few cars to the still-running trains to compensate for the extra loads.)


While I agree with the sentiment, that has the potential to be a huge nightmare in the case of trains that they hope they will be able to get running but aren't sure.

On the other hand, if they absolutely know the train will not run, and that they will be able to get the equipment back to where it's needed for the earliest date it might run again, they could add some extra equipment to other trains.

#17 moonbeam

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 11:52 AM

Good News !!

After calling Amtrak a few times, I finally got an agent who understood what I wanted to do and she spoke to a supervisor
in a different department. After being put on hold numerous times, Amtrak finally agreed to send me back home
on the Empire Builder.

They are exchanging my tickets from Seattle-SAC-CHI-PGH-PHL (via the CS and CZ) and I am now going Seattle-CHI-WAS-PHL (on EB)
They finally understood that I didn't want to be stranded either in Sacramento or as far east as the CZ would go, which
they told me was Denver.

At first, they told me the Cap Ltd was booked from CHI-WAS, but after a few minutes of speaking with the supervisor,
a roomette suddenly became available. The room number is in the high teens, so I'm assuming I'm in the transitional
dorm/sleeper car.

So with a little persistance and several calls, I finally got the right person to help me and they changed my tickets.

#18 AmtrakWPK

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 12:03 PM

Too bad Amtrak is too bull-headed to move the otherwise stranded rolling stock South and run a daily Sunset Limited all the way to Orlando, or at least Jacksonville, and add some additional cars to the Silver Service trains, in the interim, to bypass all that flooded area, at least until (as I assume it will eventually) that overflowing water moves down to NOL.

#19 jackal

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 07:51 AM

Too bad Amtrak is too bull-headed to move the otherwise stranded rolling stock South and run a daily Sunset Limited all the way to Orlando, or at least Jacksonville, and add some additional cars to the Silver Service trains, in the interim, to bypass all that flooded area, at least until (as I assume it will eventually) that overflowing water moves down to NOL.


As much as a restored SL would be cool, such a process would take months of planning to make it work smoothly--not only to fit Amtrak trains in the freights' schedule but also simply to set the systems up for ticket sales for the stations, create workable timetables, reschedule staff and move people between crew bases, and everything. For such a short-term problem (unless it turns into another UP mudslide debauchle and it's going to be months before the railroads are running again), it wouldn't be worth it. Even then, Amtrak couldn't make a detour around the UP mainline work...and I'm sure they tried. Creating a new route from scratch would be nearly impossible in such a short time.
Amtrak trains traveled: Acela Express, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Coast Starlight (and used to live next to its tracks!), Crescent, Empire Builder, Keystone, Northeast Regional, Pacific Surfliner, Pennsylvanian, San Joaquins...total mileage: 8,354 [massively out-of-date; to be updated soon!]
Other major trains traveled: Alaska Railroad (former TY&E employee), SNCF TGV (Paris-Poitiers, Paris-Dijon-Paris @300kph/187mph!) and TER (Beaune-Dijon), VR Sibelius (Helsinki-St. Petersburg-Helsinki), DB ICE (Stuttgart-Frankfurt Airport), Vietnam Railways Reunification Express (Hanoi-Hue-Saigon), CountryLink North Coast Line XPT (Sydney-Casino), Queensland Rail Sunlander (Brisbane-Proserpine-Cairns), Machu Picchu Train (Ollantaytambo-MP) subways/light rail/commuter rail/any other rail every place I can!
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#20 RailFanLNK

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 07:59 AM

I was told last weekend by our station employee that they can't even get buses to the stations on the CZ line. That roads leading to towns such as Ottumwa and Mt. Pleasant and Burlington are under water. I couldn't figure out why they weren't at least busing folks but that answered that. I leave on Wednesday June 25th, allthough I don't want to be on a bus, I would love to just leave from my Amtrak station here in LNK and take the train and then hop on a bus to get to CHI. We are connecting with the LSL at 10:00pm and we have purchased airfare from SWA (refundable) if the CZ isn't operating. If we fly, we have to drive 60 miles to Omaha, pay for parking, have someone possibly pick up our car if the CZ gets restored and also have a car at the LNK Amtrak station, along with packing completely different. Get this: My girlfriend and her two daughters and I are going to NYC/DC. The teenage daughters I figured were just being polite about travelling on Amtrak, but they are more upset that we may have to fly to CHI then I am. (even though I hate flying) One of them went online the other night and was looking at booking a trip to GSC from LNK for spring break with 4 of her college age friends. There even starting to pick up some of the terminology of rail travel. I am just totally digging it! :)

Edited by rail rookie, 21 June 2008 - 08:03 AM.

I have travelled on the California Zephyr, Lakeshore Limited, Carolinian, Acela, Capital Limited, Southwest Chief, Pacific Surfliner, Missouri River Runners, Texas Eagle, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service and the Cardinal.





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