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Rail News: Passenger Rail

DOT IG stresses intercity rail's need for capital, detailed plans at Senate hearing


U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation March 14 held a hearing regarding National Defense Rail Act (S. 1991), which committee chairman U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) introduced earlier this month.

U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead was among the witnesses called to testify.

Similar to DOT IG’s January 24 report on Amtrak’s progress, Mead reviewed the national passenger railroad’s progress in increasing revenue and ridership, but again stressed that increasing costs had outpaced any possible gains.

Mead also stressed that an intercity passenger rail system would continue to require a significant level of capital funding.

"The debate over whether a private company or government entity should be established solely for the purpose of administering the rail infrastructure investment program is irrelevant if there is no assurance that adequate capital funding has been secured to invest in the system," he said his prepared statement.

Mead called on Amtrak to provide specific and detailed information on what projects need to be undertaken in fiscal-year 2003, where they are, how much each is estimated to cost, how the projects would improve service, and what the implications would be if the projects were not done in the coming fiscal year.

"The lack of clarity and specificity in its budget request may be symptomatic of Amtrak’s unwillingness or inability to provide detailed financial information for effective decision making," he said. "Despite recommendations by the Amtrak Reform Council to break out financial results from train operations and owned infrastructure, and our repeated requests for detailed financial information on its mail and express business, Amtrak resisted in implementing a financial reporting system that provided that information."

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More News from 3/18/2002