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Inadequate 2004 Funding Could Derail Amtrak

They get $900 million, but need $1.812 billion

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The House Appropriations Committee approved $900 million to fund Amtrak's FY04 operations. Not enough. Not by a boxcar, according to a very unhappy Amtrak President David Gunn, who accused Congress of "playing Russian roulette" by keeping passenger rail service in "constant state of crisis."

In testimony before congressional committees earlier this year, Gunn even threatened that allocating only $900 million for Amtrak would cause the railroad to shutdown operations completely.

"One of our biggest obstacles is the lack of working capital," Gunn told lawmakers. "Even if I hit my budget, I will end the year with barely $10 to $20 million in the bank. In other words, we are one bureaucratic slip up away from insolvency."

In a recent press release, Amtrak contends they had provide Congress with a very clear and detailed budget and plan for FY04 that painstakingly lays out the need for $1.812 billion. Any amount lower, says Gunn, will keep the entire Amtrak system at risk.

"For too long this company (Amtrak) deferred maintenance on its plant and equipment," said Gunn. "The can has been kicked down the road so far, that we have simply run out of road. The work has to begin now."

Gunn concluded, "Failure to fully fund this request, I fear, will quickly bring on the next crisis. This railroad simply cannot continue to operate without an adequate maintenance budget."

Here are some facts about Amtrak -- Short for "American Track"

  • Amtrak, which began service on May 1, 1971, currently provides passenger rail service to over 500 communities in 46 states throughout a 22,000-mile route system.

  • Amtrak operates 2,141 railroad cars including 168 sleeper cars, 760 coach cars, 126 first class/business class cars, 66 dormitory/crew cars, 225 lounge/café/dinette cars, and 92 dining cars. Baggage cars make up the remainder of the fleet.

  • Amtrak operates 425 locomotives, 351 diesel and 74 electric.

  • No national rail passenger system in the world is currently profitable. Without Amtrak's annual funding, there would be no publicly-owned passenger rail transportation system in the United States.
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