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Rail News: Amtrak

USDOT approves Amtrak's business plan, cautions the railroad to stay within budget

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently approved Amtrak’s business plan for the remainder of fiscal-year 2003 and executed the national passenger railroad’s grant agreements.

However, USDOT officials warned Amtrak to manage its finances as mandated.

"This year, there will be no federal loans or loan guarantees, no creative financing by Amtrak, no gimmicks, no shutdown drama, no threat against commuter operations, and no kidding — Amtrak will live within the budget that Congress appropriated," said Michael P. Jackson, deputy secretary of transportation, in a prepared statement.

Amtrak President David Gunn is heeding the message. In an April 9 letter, he reminded employees how important it is that the railroad manage expenses to offset a revenue drop.

"There is no choice. We must make our budget," Gunn said. "If we are successful, we will rebuild our credibility and the public’s confidence that we can capably manage and operate this business," he said.

USDOT is trying to make Amtrak more accountable for operations and finances. The department will have oversight of each phase of Amtrak spending and the authority to withhold grant payments until the railroad agrees to DOT-approved spending parameters. Federal Railroad Administration will oversee Amtrak’s financial performance.

USDOT plans to monitor Amtrak monthly and help the railroad meet business-plan targets. Amtrak will maintain its daily management responsibilities.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/10/2003