Landslide in San Clemente halts train service indefinitely

An aerial view of Metrolink workers surveying a landslide
Metrolink workers survey a landslide that partially covered the train tracks and damaged the Mariposa Trail Bridge, north of the San Clemente Pier in San Clemente on Thursday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Train service between Orange and San Diego counties has been halted indefinitely after a landslide tumbled debris onto train tracks in San Clemente.

Service was suspended Wednesday between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo and Oceanside stations, which are used by Metrolink and Amtrak passengers, said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose district includes San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.

As service was disrupted in the area — which has seen closures in recent years with previous landslides — some passengers were stranded for hours.


“Less than one month into the new year, the railroad tracks in South County are already closed due to a landslide in San Clemente,” Foley said in a statement. “Decades of climate change denial leaves Orange County behind in a race between us and Mother Earth.”

Metrolink spokesperson Scott Johnson told The Times that rail engineers near San Clemente saw “soil and debris falling” from the hillside at 4:26 p.m. and immediately closed the tracks.

Johnson said all service south of the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station was suspended for an unknown time, affecting Orange County and Inland Empire service.

The Orange County line begins at Los Angeles’ Union Station and ends at Oceanside. Stations at San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and Oceanside are now unavailable due to the closure.

Metrolink first warned about closures between San Juan Capistrano and Oceanside at around 4:45 p.m. Then the agency announced at 8:15 p.m. there would be no further service between Laguna Niguel and Oceanside due to falling debris in San Clemente.

The agency said there would be no alternative bus service between the closed stations.

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

June 10, 2023

Amtrak first announced delays on its Pacific Surfliner route between Los Angeles and San Diego at 5:16 p.m. before suspending service between Irvine and Oceanside less than an hour later.


The Surfliner offers service between San Luis Obispo and San Diego and, following the train service suspension, ferried northbound and southbound passengers between closed stations with chartered buses.

Workers clear the railroad tracks after a landslide in San Clemente
Workers continue to clear the tracks after a landslide in San Clemente that occurred Wednesday. The landslide disrupted passenger rail service between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo and Oceanside stations.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

UC San Diego freshman Kevin Segura thought he was fortunate. The Los Angeles native purchased a ticket on the southbound train Wednesday evening from San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot three minutes before its 7:10 p.m. departure.

Segura was heading home for a dentist appointment Thursday morning before returning back to the school the following day.

He said he sat at the station and didn’t receive an update on his tardy train until 30 minutes later.

With a temporary wall in place, Metrolink and Amtrak will resume travel in San Clemente following landslides.

July 13, 2023

Amtrak has run bus services in the aftermath of three previous landslides, in 2022 and 2023. The longest suspension of service due to a landslide was six months.


Segura’s train didn’t pull out of San Diego until 9:26 p.m.

“This happens too often with Amtrak,” the student said. “It’s not acceptable to buy these tickets and not get an idea about the delay until way after. This completely ruined my plans.”

Foley said her office would look at ways to remedy the situation.

“I remain committed to working with our partners to clean up and monitor this situation, but more importantly, find solutions for rail stability,” she said.