WASHINGTON – Passenger rail service from New Orleans, suspended since Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast in later August, returned to the Big Easy Oct. with the departures of the City of New Orleans to Memphis and Chicago and the Crescent to Atlanta and New York, according to Amtrak.
The New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, Amtrak facilities and the rail lines owned by the CN Railroad and Norfolk Southern Railway leading into the city sustained extensive damage as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
“We are proud to restore our operations to and from New Orleans to both serve passengers and to help New Orleans rebuild,” said William L. Crosbie, Amtrak Senior Vice President for Operations. “We are looking forward to a steady growth in passengers to and from New Orleans as the city and the surrounding parishes make repairs and more businesses join us in reopening.”
The first train to depart New Orleans on Oct. 9 was the Crescent at 7:20 a.m., en route to Meridian, Miss., Birmingham, Ala., Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Washington, New York City and other destinations. At 1:45 p.m., the City of New Orleans left en route to Jackson, Miss., Memphis, Tenn., Carbondale, Ill., and Chicago.
The southbound City of New Orleans and Crescent will arrive from Chicago and New York later that afternoon and evening.
In FY 2004 (October 2003 to September 2004), 161,449 passengers were ticketed to or from New Orleans, one of only two locations in the central U.S. where Amtrak trains connect between the east and west. Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 28, all of the eastern and western train connections have been made in Chicago while service along the gulf coast was disrupted.
At this time, taxis and other public transportation are not yet available within New Orleans and many other services are very limited.
Service that had been provided to New Orleans on a three-days-weekly schedule by the Sunset Limited (trains 1 & 2) to Orlando and Los Angeles is not yet restored. Plans for service to the west, via Beaumont and Houston, will be announced at a later date. Service to the east, via Biloxi and Mobile, will not be possible until 2006 at the earliest because of the extreme nature of the damage done to tracks, bridges and other infrastructure owned by CSX Transportation.
Passengers may make reservations now at Amtrak.com, by calling 800-USA-RAIL or starting Saturday at the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave.