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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Republican T&I members seek details on Biden campaign's use of Amtrak


[Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Amtrak.]

Republican members of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) yesterday asked Amtrak to provide information on whether former Vice President Joe Biden has received "any special treatment" in his use of Amtrak trains and service as part of his campaign as the Democratic Party's candidate for president.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), the ranking member of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, and T&I Committee members U.S. Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), wrote to Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer William Flynn to inquire whether Biden's campaign received special treatment, interfered with freight-train operations or diverted critical resources from the passenger railroad's normal operations.

The Biden campaign has used Amtrak in its activities and portrayal of its candidate, including a recent Amtrak charter train on a tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio that included a number of campaign stops.

In their letter, the lawmakers noted Amtrak's finances have taken an extreme hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the railroad has had to lay off employees and reduce service as part of cost-cutting measures.

"Given that the Biden campaign has declined to disclose what it paid to use Amtrak's resources, we want to ensure that the campaign paid a full, non-discounted rate," the Republicans wrote.

The Biden campaign did not receive discounts or scheduling preferences for use of charter trains, Amtrak officials said in an emailed statement. They also said that Amtrak will respond to the lawmakers' letter.

"Operation of charter trains is an important revenue source for Amtrak and one that supports other parts of our business. Customers range from sports teams to businesses, historical groups and even individuals whose private rail cars are coupled to our trains," Amtrak officials said.

Charter train prices are based on a customer's operational needs and additional services. In the instance of the Biden campaign's use of the charter service, "the rate aligns with our standard practice and market rates that anyone seeking this service would be charged," they said.

Amtrak officials also noted that the railroad industry historically has operated trains for public officials from both sides of the political aisle. Amtrak has been part of that history, they said.



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