Amtrak to reduce bus service on San Diego-Orange County border beginning Monday as rail remains closed

An aerial view of Casa Romantica in San Clemente .
An aerial view of Casa Romantica in San Clemente, where a landslide beneath the historic building halted train service from San Diego to Orange County.
(Adriana Heldiz / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Budget constraints force cost-cutting measures as repairs are underway at San Clemente trouble spot.


Amtrak will reduce the number of trains with bus connections around the closed track in San Clemente in a cost-cutting measure beginning Monday, transit officials said Friday.

Instead of five daily, round-trip Pacific Surfliner trains with the so-called “bus bridge” between Oceanside and Irvine, Amtrak will have three daily trains with the link. Some on-board train services also will be temporarily suspended.

Amtrak continues to run trains between San Diego and Oceanside, and from Irvine to all points north, but until the slope is repaired there will be no trains to the station at the San Clemente Pier, which is closest to the landslide, and limited service to San Juan Capistrano.


“Considering the recent closure and state intercity rail budget constraints, we must implement cost-cutting measures to preserve as much service as possible while maintaining a vital link between San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles counties,” said Amtrak officials.

The landslide at the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente first occurred in late April less than two weeks after a previous six-month suspension of passenger train service caused by a different landslide two miles south at the Cyprus Shores community near the San Diego County border.

Temporary repairs to the hillside below Casa Romantica were completed by the city last month, allowing service to resume May 27. But a new slide in the same spot again halted service Monday.

“The city is working to stabilize the slope in the short term with more extensive work to follow,” San Clemente City Manager Andy Hall said Tuesday.

“However, the slope continues to be unstable and when movement occurs, it does impact the rail lines,” Hall said. “In the longer term, there will need to be a collaborative effort between several parties including the city of San Clemente, the Orange County Transit Authority/Metrolink, and the Coastal Commission.”

Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Clemente) said this week he will continue to push for federal resources to solve the rail problems caused by erosion along the Southern California coast.


“The ongoing landslide issues at Casa Romantica, which caused the recent rail suspension, add urgency to an already difficult situation that I am fighting hard to resolve,” Levin said. “We need federal resources to protect our coast, ensure safety for residents and businesses in San Clemente, and move the tracks inland.”

In addition to reducing the number of trains with bus bridges, Amtrak is suspending checked baggage services on all Pacific Surfliner trains during the modified schedule. Luggage and personal items still may be carried and stored on board.

Also, the onboard cafe and business class services will be unavailable on Amtrak trains between San Diego and Oceanside. They will remain available on trains north of the closure.

Amtrak recommends that travelers planning to use the bus connection between Oceanside and Irvine make a free online reservation, because space is limited and the buses may be full.

“We are committed to maintaining as much service as possible during the closure, as we understand that our customers rely on the Pacific Surfliner service,” Amtrak officials said. “We are working with our partners to safely reopen the tracks as soon as possible.”

The coastal rail route is the only passenger and freight link between San Diego and Los Angeles, and to other rail destinations across the United States.

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