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Rail News: Passenger Rail

BLE criticizes ARC report


Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers International President Edward Dubroski March 20 criticized Amtrak Reform Council’s (ARC) Second Annual Report, also released that day.

"The ARC had a chance to make a clear, bold show of support for Amtrak, but instead offered up a complicated series of recommendations that further underscore the ARC’s anti-Amtrak bias," said Dubroski in a prepared statement.

The "complicated series of recommendations" include possible ways to separate National Railroad Passenger Corp.’s train operations from infrastructure maintenance. And, since Amtrak is a quasi-governmental agency expected to operate as a business, ARC suggests several ways to separate the two, thereby insulating Amtrak from political influences that can pressure Amtrak into making unprofitable business decisions.

Dubroski believes ARC’s proposals are "radical, unnecessary and could cause more harm than good to the cause of intercity rail passenger service," and called on ARC to urge Congress and President Bush to "fully fund Amtrak and give it a real chance to be viable."

He also expressed disappointment that ARC failed to join in support of the High-Speed Rail Investment Act. The bill, which is working its way through Congress, would enable Amtrak to sell $12 million worth of bonds, then use the funds for 80 percent contribution toward building high-speed rail corridors. States would be required to fund the balance.

However, the executive summary of ARC’s report states: "The council believes Congress should provide a stable and adequate source of federal funding of the capital needs of the Northeast Corridor and other rail-passenger infrastructure."

Further, it does include High-Speed Rail Investment Act bonds as one of three options that potentially could finance capital for infrastructure and equipment.

Nonetheless, BLE’s Dubroski expressed regret that tax funds were "wasted on the work of this misguided panel" and vowed to fight against funding ARC.

"Long-term and sustainable financing, not ideologically driven proposals to break up Amtrak, will ensure a strong and viable national passenger rail system," said Dubroski. "The ARC should heed that call or cease to exist."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/21/2001