Report: Congress must fix Amtrak

Posted on November 22, 2004

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 10 years, Amtrak has lost more than $500 million annually, with more losses projected. The capital investment in Amtrak has been deficient, resulting in a form of Russian roulette, said Mead. This has resulted in postponed 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 railroad's annual losses. Although Gunn agreed with Mead's assessment, he said "that it will not be possible to live within a $1.2 billion appropropriation without deferring essential capital investment once again." Gunn said the railroad simply lacks the proper government subsidy. "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 makes economic sense; elimination of certain operations; and increased funding for further development of the system.

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