Marshall lobbying Amtrak to keep customer service staffer

Marshall area residents pressuring Amtrak to keep its ticket agent
Updated: Jun. 11, 2018 at 9:10 PM CDT
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(Source: Melissa Kakareka/KSLA News 12)
(Source: Melissa Kakareka/KSLA News 12)

MARSHALL, TX (KSLA) - Amtrak is getting rid of customer service representatives at 18 locations nationwide, including Texarkana, Ark.,  and Marshall, Texas.

Even though it's just one job, residents of Marshall, Texas, are trying to change the company's mind.

More than 600 people have signed a petition asking Amtrak to keep its customer service representative on staff at the Marshall Train Depot.

"I am now 80. I have 10 pounds of steel up my back from back surgery. I could not get off and on the train if it wasn't for a station agent," said Gail Beil, who rides the train about once a month.

Marshall Depot Board members, city leaders and concerned citizens presented the petition to the offices of Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Rep. Louie Gohmert on Monday asking them to intervene.

They say station agent George Cantley is vital not only to the efficient operation of the station, but the safety of passengers.

"It's not like George is just greeting people, not just ticketing people. He has recurrent training every year, so he is there for safety of the passengers," said Christina Anderson, of the Marshall Depot Board and I-20 Corridor Council.

"We want to make sure Texas Eagle remains strong. And keeping it strong means that people have not only easy access to ticketing, easy access to the platform. If people see, 'Oh I can't reach a person at the station,' ridership will go down. Revenue will go down. It will  have a negative impact."

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari cites online sales for the change:

Fewer than 5 in 100 Amtrak tickets nationally are sold at ticket counters. While the percentage in locations such as Marshall can be higher, Amtrak customers have chosen with their keyboards and phones to ticket themselves electronically in numbers that have increased in recent years. Although there are 18 ticket windows being closed this year, this is not a reflection on the individual Customer Service Representatives, many of whom have served Amtrak long and well. Their union agreements can enable them to move to other jobs in other cities.

Amtrak remains committed to serving the Historic Marshall Depot, having spent nearly $2 million in the past few years in improving access from the platform to the station to the parking lot.

Texarkana, which saw 6,231 boardings and alightings in fiscal year 2017, lost its representative last month.

And the change in Marshall, which saw 8,404 get on an off trains there the same year, was announced at the end of April and is set to take effect June 29.

But residents there say Cantley and his position are too important to the community.

"If you figure in a week and a half, we put 580 names on a petition and Heaven knows how many letters to congressmen and anyone else who will sit still and some who won't, that should tell you something," Beil said.

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