Amtrak to end daily service for Anniston station

Anniston Amtrak

Amtrak takes on passengers at its Anniston station late Thursday afternoon, having arrived from New Orleans and Birmingham bound for Atlanta and points east.

Amtrak will end daily service on many of its long-distance routes, including the one that stops in Anniston, beginning Oct. 1, according to a spokeswoman for the rail company.

“Due to the long-term impact of COVID-19 on ridership, Amtrak has made the decision to operate with reduced capacity through FY21,” said Kimberly Woods, a spokeswoman for Amtrak.

The move to service on three days per week comes after Amtrak announced it would be cutting 20 percent of its workforce as a result of the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company said that the pandemic has reduced ridership and ticket revenue by 95 percent.

“Our goal is to restore daily service on these routes as demand warrants, potentially by the summer of 2021,” Woods said.

The long-distance passenger train, known as the Crescent, connects New York and New Orleans, and includes stops in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Anniston, which adds up to 1,377 miles.

The Train Station Café, located in the Amtrak station, closed at the end of March due to the pandemic, but café owner Erika Ray said she has no issue with Amtrak’s decision.

“Dropping to three days a week is perfectly fine because I was only gonna be open five days a week anyway,” Ray said. “So, we can make sure everything gets sanitized and clean and just keep everybody safe.”

The café has been closed since March and plans to reopen the week after July 4. Ray used the time the café was closed to purchase new equipment that would allow for individually packaged food and condiments.

“We’re gonna do away with the strawberry shortcake and banana pudding for right now, and we’re gonna focus more on more like individually wrapped Debbie cakes,” she said. “Stuff like that is easy but nobody has to touch it at all.”

Ray doesn’t believe that the pandemic or the ending of daily service will have much impact on the café because she caters to people outside of the station, including Greyhound bus passengers and the Anniston Areawide Community Transportation System buses.

Ray also said that she had just stocked her café when she closed it and had to find a use for it.

“Instead of throwing the things away that I couldn’t keep like the bread and stuff that can go bad, I fed the homeless with it,” she said. “I ended up giving it all away and I fed the homeless so that I wouldn’t just be throwing away stuff that I just bought.”