Amtrak reducing staff, open hours at Niles Depot

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Amtrak is reducing its hours of operation at the Niles Train Depot as of Aug. 1.
According to an Amtrak spokesman, the Niles station will be open and staffed after Aug. 1 only from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, and will as a result lose one shift.
Currently, the station is staffed and open from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week.
That means people who wish to travel during the times when the station is closed must make reservations ahead, said the Amtrak ticket agent who worked at the Niles station on Friday.
The ticket agent, who did not want to reveal her name, said a reduction in opening hours also means people who travel on a train that arrives in Niles when the station is closed won't have access to the telephones or restroom, located inside the station. Access to the train depot will be unavailable during times it is not staffed.
Karina Van Veen, Amtrak's media relations manager in Washington D.C, said there will be staff reductions at the Amtrak depot in Niles.
She said reducing opening hours at the Niles Depot is part of the larger cost cutting measures Amtrak is currently doing nationwide.
The International line that travels through Niles on its way to either Chicago or Canada, however, will be staffed because those trains arrive and depart within the stations opening hours, she said.
People who travel on morning train 350, evening trains 355, 354 and 367 on Sunday, however, won't be able to get into the depot, according to Amtrak.
Van Veen said she has spoken to the Amtrak officials that suggested the reduction in opening hours at the Niles Depot.
She said the officials based their decision on the largest and smallest number of passengers boarding or de-boarding the Amtrak trains here.
Although there will be a reduction in opening hours, Van Veen said Amtrak is doing everything it can to accommodate its passengers here.
The Amtrak ticket agent said it's sad to see the reduction in opening hours, especially since the station building is currently being renovated.
The two-year renovation has focused on increasing access, in particular, for the handicapped.
She does not agree that loosing a shift won't affect the train service.

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