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Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service likely disrupted until at least mid-December

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Service could return to a portion of Amtrak’s popular Pacific Surfliner route before the end of the year, officials say, as crews conduct emergency work along a section of track on California’s Pacific coast.

Amtrak indefinitely suspended service earlier this month on a southern portion of the Pacific Surfliner south of Los Angeles. Orange County transportation officials did the same with commuter trains in the area, due to coastal erosion underneath the tracks around San Clemente, right near the ocean.

The emergency track work has disrupted a more than 40-mile section between Amtrak’s stops in Irvine and Oceanside, so passengers looking to connect between the two stops need to take a bus. The problems have effectively broken the Pacific Surfliner route into three distinct portions: train service from Irvine, north; bus service between Irvine and Oceanside; and train service from Oceanside, south.

Ordinarily, the 351-mile route gives passengers views of beaches and rolling hills while connecting them with major southern California destinations from San Diego at the southern end of the route to San Obispo, north of Santa Barbara, at the route’s northern end.

pacific surfliner

Coastal erosion to blame

The train service disruption has to do with erosion: The hillside underneath the tracks in the San Clemente area has slipped some 28 inches over the past 13 months, with storm surges being a big contributor, Orange County transit officials said.

Crews are in the midst of a three-month, multi-million dollar project to correct the problems — with hopes of rebuilding and stabilizing the land and tracks. At the moment, there’s no passenger train service in the immediate area.

While the project timeline calls for the work to fully wrap up by mid-January, officials hope to be able to resume train service return by mid-December. However, transit officials caution, it’s possible unforeseen circumstances could delay the track reopening until the project is entirely complete.

track damage
The section of track with erosion issues along the Pacific coast near San Clemente. METROLINK

Temporary solutions

While construction on the tracks and land underneath happens in the San Clemente area, Amtrak is using bus service on the route between Irvine and Oceanside.

On top of that, beginning Monday, Oct. 31, Amtrak will begin limited train service (trains 770, 774 and 784) to and from San Juan Capistrano, which is south of Irvine, but north of the affected area. If you’re looking to connect between the northern and southern corridors, though, you’ll want to get off at Irvine to catch the bus.

As the service evolves, check this page for updates on ways you might be able to navigate the ongoing disruptions.

pacific surfliner
An Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train passes through Del Mar, California. BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

Bottom line

While Amtrak continues to roll out contingency plans amid work along a southern section of the Pacific Surfliner route, you still won’t be able to ride the route end-to-end for a couple of more months. 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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