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Amtrak suspends service on portion of iconic Pacific Surfliner route

The Points Guy 10/2/2022 Sean Cudahy
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It may be a while before train enthusiasts and passengers can enjoy a scenic section of an iconic train route along California’s Pacific coast. Citing emergency track work, Amtrak indefinitely suspended service Friday on a southern portion of its popular Pacific Surfliner route.

The section of the route currently suspended runs between Irvine and San Diego, the approximately 85-mile southernmost portion of what is normally a 351-mile train trip along the Pacific Coast.

Ordinarily, the Pacific Surfliner gives passengers views of beaches and rolling hills while connecting them with major southern California destinations between San Diego at the southern end of the route, and San Obispo, north of Santa Barbara, at the route’s northern end.

Amtrak did not give a timetable for the maintenance driving the disruptions but noted it is working with its partners to set up limited service from the coastal stop in Oceanside, south to San Diego. There may also soon be buses connecting the northern and southern sections of the Pacific Surfliner while work on the tracks takes place.

SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY © The Points Guy SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Coastal erosion apparently to blame

The emergency track replacement work at the center of these disruptions is happening in San Clemente, which is south of Los Angeles, Anaheim and Irvine, but north of Oceanside and San Diego.

Crews are working to fix problems with the right of way — the area underneath and just around the tracks, in hopes of rebuilding and stabilizing the land and tracks. CBS News in Los Angeles reports coastal erosion has been a problem in San Clemente in recent years and after recent tropical storm activity.

Amtrak announced the decision to suspend the southern portion of the route Friday “out of an abundance of caution” for passengers and crews, the rail operator said.

“We understand that closures will result in disruptions and sincerely apologize for any inconveniences it causes our riders,” Amtrak officials said in a statement.

The Pacific Surfliner’s southernmost stop in San Diego. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY © The Points Guy The Pacific Surfliner’s southernmost stop in San Diego. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Temporary solutions

While there’s no word, currently, on when the Pacific Surfliner might again be able to run between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, it looks like the southernmost portion of the route will get at least some service again soon.

In announcing the service suspension on Friday, Amtrak noted it is working with its partners to establish limited train service between Oceanside, south of the problematic area, and San Diego.

And while hopping off a train, onto a bus, and then back onto a train may not seem like an especially convenient sequence, particularly when booking a scenic train route, it’s likely to figure into the temporary plans as well, as Amtrak works to provide at least some sort of linkage between the northern and southern sections of the Pacific Surfliner route. This would involve a bus connection between Irvine and Oceanside, allowing passengers to avoid the spot on which crews are working.

Some of these contingencies are set to take effect Monday. If you’re planning to ride the Pacific Surfliner in the near future, check this page for updates on ways you might be able to navigate the ongoing disruptions.

An Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train passes through Del Mar, California. BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES © The Points Guy An Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train passes through Del Mar, California. BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

Bottom line

While Amtrak is working to set up contingency plans, you won’t be able to ride the Pacific Surfliner route end-to-end like normal “until further notice,” the rail operator said. If you’re planning to ride any portion of the route south of Los Angeles, you’ll want to keep a close eye on Amtrak’s latest updates so you’ll know what to expect on your trip.

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