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Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

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Saint Louis...
posts: 156
reviews: 22
Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

We traveled this past weekend from St. Louis to Chicago by Amtrak with confirmed, prepaid reservations. The trip to Chicago on Thursday afternoon took 8 1/2 hours instead of 5 1/2 because of heat-related issues with the tracks and multiple unplanned stops due to "freight traffic". If that wasn't bad enough, our return trip on Sunday, July 1 was completely cancelled by Amtrak without explanation or notifying us. We called them to check the departure status prior to checking out of our hotel which is how we found out the train was cancelled. They told us there were no other trains available for the day, but we could go to the station to talk to customer service about our refund options and "possibly" get a bus trip back to St. Louis, but with no guarantees. Union Station in Chicago is chaotic and unorganized...we were not willing to endure trying to deal with that situation, much less taking a bus back to St. Louis. We spent the next 2 hours scrambling to find a way home. We ended up having to pay $215 to rent a car one way back to St. Louis. Amtrak did this to us in 2006 because of one of the late November ice storms...on that occasion we had to fly home at our own expense! Never, never, never again will Amtrak get my business!

Saint Louis...
posts: 156
reviews: 22
11. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

To clarify, Amtrak did not offer a clear alternative to getting us home. They said the train was cancelled and we could go to Union Station for "refund information". They said there were no trains leaving for St. Louis all day. They alluded to the possibility that the train would be rerouted via bus or we might be offered overnight accomodations in Chicago. Being stranded at Union Station with our luggage and no clear way home was not a chance we were willing to take. Amtrak is not an "enemy" my point is they are very poorly run and offer little to no customer service. Had I read a post like this before our trip I would not have chosen to travel via Amtrak.

St. Louis
Destination Expert
for Saint Louis
posts: 821
reviews: 13
12. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

Sorry for your experience. We've all had travel frustrations. I do think it is good to remind people that Amtrak shares freight tracks and is occasionally delayed. But, I think your post title is over the top alarming.

I've never had a serious issue with Amtrak. A few one or two hour train delays - my daughter was once transferred to a bus in Springfield, IL, to complete a trip from Chicago to St. Louis.

I have had numerous flight delays, cancellations, and less than perfect flights. I've been sent home three times from Lambert when evening flights were cancelled, and had to come back the next day. I've had multiple hour delays flying out of Chicago, Dallas, you name it. I spent 22 hours in the Concord airport, initially delayed after mechanical problems ground my original flight, then further delayed by weather problems cancelling all midwest bound flights, finally flying out the next day. I spent three months convincing American Airlines I should get some compensation, since the original delay was due to their mechanical problems.

I never got a call ahead of time (from any airline, anywhere), and the normal solution was to "fix" it at the airport. I still fly (American, too) , and would still give Amtrak my business.

Edited: 11:38 am, July 10, 2012
Central Illinois
posts: 353
reviews: 20
13. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

The customer service line you called would not have been able to give you as detailed an explanation of what was going on and alternate Amtrak solutions as going to Union Station and hearing what they were doing about the situation. You chose not to do that. So, you did not give Amtrak the opportunity to rectify and offer alternate transportation.

St. Louis
Destination Expert
for Saint Louis
posts: 821
reviews: 13
14. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

Here is a page from the Amtrak site noting ontime statistics. It would be helpful if they gave some more detail. I expect a one hour delay is reported the same as a cancellation so not too indicative of future performance. June is pretty bad. The past 12 months they ran at 83% on time.

www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer…

Below is another page detailing a major reason for the service interruption. It looks like they are looking to finish up the improvements by year end, with the High Speed rail starting soon.

Illinois High-Speed Rail Construction Affects Service between Chicago and St. Louis

Illinois High-Speed Rail Construction Continues through the Summer 2012

Starting June 16, 2012, the Illinois Department of Transportation (Illinois DOT) and Union Pacific Railroad will begin the final phase of 2012 upgrades to Illinois signature Chicago - St. Louis high-speed rail route for future high-speed Amtrak trains. This is the last scheduled year of large-scale construction that will result in substitute motorcoach transportation on this corridor.

During construction, chartered motorcoaches and connecting Amtrak train service will be provided for Lincoln Service (Trains 300-307) and Texas Eagle (Trains 21/321/421 and 22/322/422) passengers at stations between St. Louis and Chicago. The chartered motorcoaches will not operate on the same schedules as the Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle. Up-to-date train and motorcoach schedules are available on Amtrak.com, our free iPhone app and at 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

The temporary changes will allow Union Pacific to improve the tracks to enable the Lincoln Service trains to travel at speeds up to 110 mph (177 kph), an increase from the current maximum of 79 mph (127 kph). In addition to allowing trains to travel at a higher rate of speed, the improvements will provide a more comfortable ride and shorter trip times.

Illinois DOT and Amtrak are planning to preview higher speed trains in September 2012 between Dwight and Pontiac. For information about other exciting improvements that will be brought to this corridor, visit the Official Illinois High-Speed Rail website, www.idothsr.org and Facebook page, facebook.com/IllinoisHighSpeedRail or call 1-855-IDOT-HSR (1-855-436-8477) for questions or comments about the project.

Thank you for traveling with Amtrak. We appreciate your patronage and apologize for any inconvenience you may experience.

Join us on facebook.com/Amtrak and follow us at twitter.com/Amtrak.

PSN 0612-91

Wa
posts: 51
reviews: 38
15. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

With all due respect, you say if you had read a post like this you would not have travelled on Amtrak. But in fact you had the experience in 2006 and still chose to travel with Amtrak. It is up to you to confirm any travel arrangements; you cannot rely on companies to do that for you. Posting BEWARE in the title is unfair because the cancellation was due to heat. You did not give them the chance to provide customer service. In these types of situations it is unfortunate but you have to put up with chaos and disorganization to get a ticket. In that same time period I was flying from St. Louis to Seattle through Houston. 58 flights were cancelled in Chicago the night before, thereby setting in motion a chain of delays and other problems all over the region. My seat partner was in line for 7 hours to get re-booked. He could have stormed off in a huff and rented a car. He chose to endure the inconvenience and get a ticket on a later flight. You could have done that, too, but you chose not to. Since you did not give them the chance, it is unfair to post such a negative review.

Saint Louis...
posts: 156
reviews: 22
16. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

Yes, you are correct about the track upgrades and the possiblity of motorcoach shuttle to get around it. However, before I booked our particular trains, I called Amtrak to see if there were scheduled interruptions for those trains. The agent was very helpful, said she had a schedule right in front of her and that there was no activity on the tracks at the day/times of our scheduled trains. She made a point of saying, "you'll be fine, your trains are straight through". I would not have followed through with booking on Amtrak had the trains had the "motorcoach" reroute.

Saint Louis...
posts: 28
reviews: 11
17. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

Unfortunately, Amtrak sucks. I like traveling on trains and I'm disappointed with the train service in this country. Take Megabus to Chicago from now on. Buy early and you get a great deal.

Saint Louis...
Destination Expert
for Saint Louis
posts: 1,010
reviews: 62
18. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

Blanket statements like "Amtrak sucks" are not very helpful to having a dialogue. The one Megabus trip I took from Chicago to St. Louis "sucked", and Amtrak saved the day (talk about a lack of planning or info on Megabus' part!) but I am not going to condemn Megabus. Just a thought....

Saint Louis...
posts: 156
reviews: 22
19. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

@blackdog71. We were not given an explanation as to why the train was cancelled. Nothing was said about heat related issues being the reason for cancelling our return by Amtrak. They did not offer an alternative train for us, we were told nothing was going to St. Louis. They did not offer us an option for the next day. One of the agents vaguely offered the "possibility" that they "might" arrange for a bus, but nothing definite! We spoke directly to Amtrak agents each time we called before we made the decision to rent a car and drive home. Again, I stand by my negative review of Amtrak based on our experiences which have been more negative than positive. We have had our share of negative experiences with airlines as well, however, the average of good to negative FAR surpasses Amtrak.

Saint Louis...
Destination Expert
for Saint Louis
posts: 1,010
reviews: 62
20. Re: Amtrak St. Louis to Chicago BEWARE!

I don't think anyone or anything will convince you of anything to the contrary, or that there is any middle ground (where the reality almost always lies) than what believe about this situation, so I am not sure what more forumers can do. The responses, based on your telling of the situation, have been overwhelmingly curious about your decision-making. I guess if you take such umbrage at Amtrak, don't use it.

Millions do, and all the more room for us. It is not perfect, by any means, but this respectfully seems, as Shakespeare would say "Much ado..."