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All aboard: Amtrak returns to full service across Illinois

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Amtrak is back to full service in Illinois.

Half of the train services were cut over the past year to keep people safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people came through the Springfield station Monday heading to St. Louis and Chicago.

The full service is back for Amtrak following a long period of waiting for treatments for COVID-19. Amtrak officials say now was the right time to bring services back, with vaccines widely available and fewer people contracting the virus than there were last year.

Even though there is a rise in cases of people with the delta variant, Amtrak officials say there are no plans to turn back and cut their service. People still have to wear masks whenever they are on a train or inside a train station.

"We're not back to normal when it comes to riding the train itself," said Amtrak Spokesman Marc Magliari. "But we're back to normal in offering the kind of regular service that people want."

There are now five daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis with stops in Normal and Springfield. People can also find two round trips from the Windy City to Quincy stopping in Macomb and Galesburg. You could also hop on one of three Saluki trains heading down to Carbondale.

Amtrak officials and local leaders hope this is a sign of more things returning to normal. Springfield is one of several communities that will benefit from the return of the full service. Mayor Jim Langfelder says this can help boost the economy and encourage more tourism across the state.

"The more you have accessibility, the better of you'll be," Langfelder said. "But for myself, I'm a Cub fan. I've gone and taken the train up to Chicago. So that's always a nice way to go there and enjoy the venue as you move along the track."

The move back to full service can also help many students, faculty, and staff at colleges across Illinois. Magliari says Amtrak gives those colleges an advantage over schools that may not have a train available for students.

Amtrak also plans on creating shorter schedules and adding new rail cars soon.

"The rail cars are purchased through the state of Illinois and the Amtrak Midwest network which includes Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri as well. But this corridor, the Chicago to St. Louis corridor, will be the first that sees the new cars when they go into revenue service," said Scott Speegle, Passenger Rail Marketing Manager for IDOT. "That should be later this summer or early in the fall."

Speegle noted the new cars are much cleaner, feature better Wi-Fi connection, and have much more ADA-compliant spaces for wheelchairs.

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Mike Miletich

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