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4/22/2005



Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak develops own reform proposal, seeks different legislation


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During the past two years, Amtrak officials haven’t embraced the Bush Administration’s reform proposals for the national passenger railroad. Now, they’re beginning to open their arms. Yesterday, Amtrak Chairman David Laney, and President and Chief Executive Officer David Gunn announced they’re pursuing legislation that’s fairly similar to the Administration’s Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act, which was reintroduced in Congress last week, and requesting $1.8 billion in federal funding for FY2006.

Amtrak is seeking legislation that would establish a federal/state capital matching program for passenger-rail development; designate a federal agency to oversee Amtrak’s transition to a competitive passenger-rail service provider; develop a formula for Northeast Corridor users to proportionately fund their share of costs; and extend Amtrak’s freight railroad trackage rights to all qualified competitors for state-managed services.

"Amtrak cannot continue business as usual, nor can the snail pace of passenger-rail development continue to lag behind the growing need in high-demand regions of the country," said Laney. "These initiatives will both continue fundamental reform at Amtrak, and help spur a rational and much-needed growth of the passenger-rail network."

Amtrak officials want to develop passenger-rail corridors using federal/state matching dollars and put states in charge of developing the corridors, which the railroad might operate; return the Northeast Corridor infrastructure to a state of good repair and charge all users — including Amtrak, and freight and commuter railroads — for capital and operating costs; establish financial performance thresholds for Amtrak’s long-distance trains and any future proposed service; and create markets for competition, private commercial participation and industrial reforms.

"It is Amtrak’s belief that the leadership of such development is the role of states and the federal government, not Amtrak," said Laney. "Instead, Amtrak must in the long run transform itself to a competitive provider of passenger-rail services."




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