NEWTON — There are a couple of milestones at Amtrak this month — milestones that some are not happy about.

For the first time in nearly 150 years, there is not a daily passenger train stopping in Newton — and the same can be said for dozens of communities across multiple states served by the Southwest Chief. And, this month, for the first time in nearly 150 years, there has been a day without a passenger train departure from Chicago headed to Los Angeles. Two trains, the California Zepyr and the Southwest Chief, make that trip.

Both of those trains, along with nearly every long-distance train operated by Amtrak, have been cut to three-day-a-week service.

It is a move that William Flynn, president and CEO of Amtrak, was forced to defend in September during a hearing by the U.S. House subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. And he was questioned again this week by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

"The levels of ridership have fallen off so dramatically, that running a daily service right now without some level of assistance or supplemental funding will essentially reduce the company to a very precarious state," Flynn said Oct. 21. "... It is the management challenge that we have to make."

About $1 billion was received from the CARES Act to avoid furloughs, but Amtrak started a new fiscal year Oct. 1. Amtrak requested an additional $4.9 billion for the next fiscal year, but that funding has not been approved. It is contained in HR 2, which has not been voted on in the U.S. Senate.

In addition to days of service cuts this month, Amtrak has begun furlough of about 2,000 employees, including 700 on-board service workers represented by the Transport Workers Union of America. In Kansas, the Southwest Chief uses train and engine crews based in La Junta and in Kansas City. They are members of the BLET (engineers) and SMART (conductors). Amtrak employment in Kansas is about a dozen employees overall.

Newton has long been the busiest passenger rail station in the state of Kansas, and in 2016 that was bolstered by the creation of a bus service connecting Newton to Oklahoma City — a connection between the Southwest Chief and The Heartland Flyer, which serves Oklahoma and Texas.

The Southwest Chief serves Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City in Kansas. Of those stations, only Newton hosts an attendant.