Mid-South News
5:52 am
Tue July 1, 2008

Sinkhole May Swallow Amtrak Service To Memphis

Memphis, TN – Memphis is the number one destination on the City of New Orleans. If a gaping sinkhole is not fixed, Amtrak may discontinue service

It's 6:30 AM, and people are dribbling out onto the sidewalk of South Main Street to board the two Cross Country buses chartered by Amtrak to catch the City of New Orleans, southbound. The train personnel aren't sure when the buses will depart because the train coming in from Chicago is delayed. You see, the passenger train is now using heavily used freight tracks to bypass the city.

In mid-April, a small sinkhole was discovered just south of the Central Station terminal at Front and Georgia. Now, it's grown beyond imagination - growth or the city's excavation. Canadian National has disabled the tracks into the station, and Amtrak chartered buses to shuttle passengers to and from the train, now meeting passengers near Johnson Yards.

A woman heading home to New Orleans gets off the bus with her baby on her hip and rummages through the checked baggage to find a diaper.

Others have gotten back off the bus and are milling around.

Apparently, there is some dispute about who's responsible. The city owns the land. Canadian National owns the tracks.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the city owns the land. Amtrak is merely a tenant, and therefore it's the city's responsibility to fix the problem.

The City will not grant an interview, but did issue a statement saying they are negotiating with Canadian National to complete the final repairs. CN also refused an interview, but the spokesman for CN did say they're working with the city to fix the sinkhole and restore service.

Still, there is no timeline, nor cost estimate.

Meanwhile, busing train passengers is costing Amtrak thousands of dollars per day.

Still, the parking lot at Central Station remains closed, buses continue to transport train passengers, and many hope the city, Canadian National and Amtrak reinstate direct service through Memphis.