Report: Congress must fix Amtrak

Posted on November 22, 2003

Congress must do more to save Amtrak from a major disruption in service according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general. In a report of Amtrak's financial performance, Inspector General Kenneth Mead said Congress must decide how to restructure the passenger railroad to stop the cash loss. In the past ten years, Amtrak has lost more than $500 million annually, and is projected to continue. With the amount of money Amtrak recieves, capital has been spread too thinly resulting in a form of Russian roulette, said Mead. This has increased the amount of deferred investments. Capital projects that have been deferred include interlockings, bridges, and tunnels that are well beyond their economic life, as well as 125 cars and 43 locomotives that are unavailable for service. Amtrak President David Gunn has cut costs, but not enough to stem the railroads annual losses. Although Gunn agreed with the assessment, he said "that it will not be possible to live within a $1.2 billion appropropriation without defferring essential capital investment once again." The railroad simply lacks the money, but Mead said the railroad cannot save its way to financial health. "Without clear direction from Congress, Amtrak has taken the position that it should essentially maintain the status quo," Mead said. Recommendations in the report include focusing on development of corridors where passenger rail service can make economic sense; decreased funding and elimination of certain operations; and increased funding for further development of the system.

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