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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak begins dealing with $1.05 billion appropriation

Amtrak is determined to make do with its less-than-requested $1.05 billion fiscal year 2003 appropriation while working under new federally imposed conditions and analyzing ways it can save money.

First and foremost, the railroad plans to cut costs by eliminating at least two of its six long-distance routes that have been criticized for losing hundreds of dollars per passenger.

The Kentucky Cardinal, operating from Indianapolis to Louisville, will be eliminated the first week of July. The route, which was established strictly to handle Amtrak’s Mail and Express program, has not generated enough revenue to make it successful, says Amtrak spokesperson Karina Van Veen.

Last year, the railroad announced it would eliminate the express operation, although it plans to continue hauling mail system-wide.

Amtrak also plans soon to eliminate the Chicago-to-Pittsburgh portion of the Pennsylvanian — another part of the railroad’s Mail and Express program. The Pennsylvanian now will operate between Pittsburgh and New York City.

Meanwhile, the railroad is working with the Bush Administration on new conditions included in the federal appropriations bill.

Rather than go directly to Amtrak, federal funds will be filtered through the U.S. Department of Transportation. The railroad would receive funds on a quarterly basis, after grant requests are reviewed by USDOT.

Under the other major contingency, Amtrak would establish a detailed business plan, followed up with monthly reports. That condition is already being met — Amtrak President David Gunn began issuing monthly reports in October, Van Veen says.

Angela Claypool

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/24/2003