Amtrak board nominee backs federal support of railroad

Posted on November 7, 2003

Former American Airlines chairman Robert Crandall, nominated to Amtrak's board, on Thursday said a national railroad can survive only with meaningful help from government and will never make money, reported the Associated Press. Crandall told Senate lawmakers at his confirmation hearing that a clear federal mandate, government oversight and a steady source of funding were essential to its long-term survival. "We (board members) have the responsiblity to make sure those funds are spent in a businesslike way. In that sense, it is a business. But in terms of whether it is profitable--passenger rail is not, and will not, and cannot be profitable," said Crandall. Amtrak, which could receive more than $1 billion in subsidies for the second straight year, is a huge money loser despite improved ridership on many routes, said the AP. The push for reform has also included an overhaul of the railroad's board. Replacing appointees made up largely of state and local government officials, the White House has selected members with extensive managerial and big business experience. In addition to Crandall, international rail reform expert and former Transportation Department official Louis Thompson and former Kmart chairman Floyd Hall are expected to easily win Senate confirmation.

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