Marshall Depot Board shares Amtrak’s plans to restore staffing

Marshall Depot Board shares Amtrak’s plans to restore staffing that was eliminated in 2018 at the Amtrak station in Marshall, Texas and 14 other cities nationwide

Passenger rail advocates from the Marshall Depot Board of Directors shared exciting news on Wednesday that Amtrak is in the process of restoring, in the coming month to six weeks, the paid Customer Service Representative positions at the Marshall, Texas station, as well as the staffing of 14 cities nationwide, which were all eliminated by Amtrak in 2018.

Christina Anderson, member of the Marshall Depot Board and I-20 Corridor Council, who, along with her husband former Harrison County Judge and former Texas State Senator Richard Anderson, headed up the local and regional grassroot efforts in 2018 to urge Amtrak to not eliminate the important staffing at the Marshall station and the other stations nationwide, shared the following statement, on behalf of the Marshall Depot Board:

“During the sadness and difficulty of the ongoing pandemic and with continued gratitude for the brave service of our frontline workers and all working together to battle the current health crisis, we’re very grateful and honored to be able to share some welcomed and happy news with our community and region. On Tuesday, May 19, we received a phone call from Amtrak informing us that Amtrak plans to restore the paid Customer Service Representative staffing at our Marshall Depot station, as well as at the 14 other U.S. cities who had staffing eliminated in 2018.”

Ms. Anderson added:  “Congratulations and much appreciation to all who worked with such dedication—locally, regionally, and nationally—on the grassroots effort to help Amtrak understand the critical role that staffing of our stations plays in our rural and urban communities, plus the critical role that Amtrak’s long-distance National Network plays in providing much-needed transportation options to citizens throughout America. Our community greatly values and appreciates our strong, long-standing partnership with Amtrak, as Marshall is proudly one of the stops along the Texas Eagle route. And, with regard to this issue, we are grateful that our local and national unified voices were heard.”

Cathy Wright, President of the Marshall Depot Board, echoed this sentiment: “We’re so appreciative to all who worked so hard and effectively to bring about this successful outcome, not only in 2018 but over the past two years. We’re thankful for the strong working relationship we have with Amtrak, now and in the past, and we look forward to the relationship continuing to strengthen in the many years to come.”

Amtrak shared the information that there would be a posting internally within Amtrak for the two restored Customer Service Representative (CSR) jobs in Marshall from May 20-May 27. The jobs will then be posted externally. One CSR agent would work Monday through Thursday, the other CSR agent would work Friday through Sunday, for a fully-staffed station in Marshall.

The CSR agents will provide service at the Marshall Depot station in the three hours before, during, and after the arrival and departure of the northbound, as well as the southbound trains on the Texas Eagle route, which provides service between Chicago and San Antonio. The northbound train to Chicago departs each day at 7:31pm and the southbound train to Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio departs at 7:50am.  Marshall is one of only about 525 cities nationwide that has an Amtrak stop.

By way of background, Amtrak announced in the spring of 2018 that the company planned to eliminate the Customer Service Representative staffing at the Marshall Depot station by the end of June of that year.

At that time, Amtrak also announced the elimination of staffing at 14 other cities–Texarkana, Arkansas; Cincinnati, Ohio; Topeka, Kansas; Meridian, Mississippi; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Hammond, Louisiana; Charleston, West Virginia; Fort Madison, Iowa; Ottumwa, Iowa; Garden City, Kansas; La Junta, Colorado; Lamy, New Mexico; Shelby, Montana; and Havre, Montana.

In 2018, upon hearing the news of the proposed staffing elimination, members of the Marshall Depot Board went into action to inform the community and region about the proposed de-staffing and to mobilize them through a letter-writing and petition-signing campaign to Amtrak officials and members of Congress.

“We worked not only throughout our community and region,” Richard Anderson shared, “but also with advocates in some of the other 14 affected cities. We also worked with national rail advocacy groups such as Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization (TEMPO) and Rail Passengers Association to raise awareness with members of Congress and Amtrak about the negative economic, tourism, and quality of life impact that the staffing elimination would have on Marshall, the other cities, and the National Network.”

The Marshall Depot Board received more than 750 signatures on the petition from citizens throughout the region. Petitions were provided to be signed at community events and at local business such as The Ginocchio Restaurant, East Texas Office Supply, Central Perks, Red Poppy Hair Salon, and the T & P Railway Museum, located at the Marshall Depot.

The final petition from our region was presented via mail to the President of Amtrak, Chairman of the Board of Amtrak, as well as to various members of the Texas Congressional delegation.

In the ensuing months, through a continued collaborative effort by rail advocates nationwide concerning the 15 affected cities and related routes, advocates were able to convince Congress to provide the directive to Amtrak to restore the CSR positions in all 15 cities, including Marshall.

 Dr. Bill Pollard, President of the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization (TEMPO) who also served for nearly 20 years as volunteer Local Revenue Manager for the Texas Eagle, underscored the importance of the CSR staffing to the safety of Amtrak stations.

“Due to their knowledge, experience, and recurrent training,” Dr. Pollard shared, “the Customer Service Representatives provide services to ensure safe entraining and de-training of passengers, safety on the platform, assistance to persons with disabilities and/or special needs, assistance with luggage, and other important services.  They are often the ‘face of Amtrak’ and are the initial or primary contact for the traveling public to access Amtrak’s important transportation services.”

Ms. Anderson shared that the Marshall Depot Board looks forward to sharing additional information as things progress regarding this positive news regarding the restoration of the Amtrak staffing.

She shared: “We can’t underscore enough how fortunate we are to be an Amtrak-served community and the important economic, transportation, and quality of life benefits that Amtrak and the Marshall Depot provide our community and region. We’re also thankful to be a part of  such a strong local, regional, and national network of grassroots advocates in support of passenger rail. Plus, in this uncertain time of the pandemic, we’re fortunate that two jobs are being added to the Marshall economy.”

Cathy Wright added: “On behalf of all the members of the Marshall Depot Board, we wish to thank everyone in our community and region for their support of Amtrak and the Marshall Depot.”

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