Amtrak riders to pay $20 more if they lug too much stuff onto trains

Amtrak says its new baggage fee is based on space and safety concerns.

Amtrak is boarding a baggage fee bandwagon that has generated billions in revenue for the airline industry.

The passenger train operator will start Thursday charging $20 to passengers who exceed limits for carry-on and personal items.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the fees will help enforce the company’s established policies, preserve space on crowded trains and reduce safety concerns created by items that are too heavy.

Customers are allowed to bring for free two personal items weighing up to 25 pounds and two carry-on bags weighing no more than 50 pounds each. Personal items might include things like a backpack, laptop, purse or other small bags. Passengers with children under 2 also can bring onboard an additional item such a stroller or diaper bag.

The fee applies to each item above those limits.

U.S. airlines started introducing bag fees in 2008 and now charge a standard fee of $25 for the first checked suitcase. Those fees generated $1.6 billion for the airlines in the first quarter of this year.

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But the airline charges also are more extensive than what Amtrak plans, and Magliari said the train operator didn’t start its fees to make more money.

“It is simply a space and safety initiative,” he said.

He said the fee was aimed at a small percentage of the company’s 31 million passengers who exceed limits for what they can bring onboard for free. Passengers can avoid the fee by checking their bags through to the final destination, if that service is available on their train.

Amtrak trains pick up and drop off passengers in North Charleston.