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CHICAGO --December 28, 1998 -- Amtrak's Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, posted a robust 22 percent ridership gain during fiscal year 1998 (Oct. 1, 1997-Sept. 30, 1998), reflecting similar improvements throughout the passenger railroad's nationwide system. The Empire Builder, which operates daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest via Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, North Dakota, Montana, Seattle and Portland carried 422,174 passengers during FY'98, a more than 75,000-passenger increase over FY'97 when 346,535 passengers rode the train.
For the full press release go to:
CHICAGO -- December 28, 1998-- Amtrak's New York-Florida Silver Palm, inaugurated in November 1996, to supplement its sister "Silver Service" trains operating in the same end-point market, posted a healthy 17-percent ridership gain during fiscal year 1998 (Oct. 1, 1997-Sept. 30, 1998), reflecting similar improvements throughout the passenger railroad's nationwide system. The Silver Palm operates daily between New York City and Miami via Tampa, serving the middle-Atlantic states, the Carolinas and Georgia. The train's ridership grew from 187,704 riders in FY'97 to 219,657 in FY'98. The combined Amtrak Silver Service trains, including the New York-Florida Silver Star and Silver Meteor, carried 731,981 passengers in FY'98
Nationally, Amtrak carried 21.1 million passengers, 4.5 percent more than the previous year and the largest annual increase in a decade. Passenger revenue topped a billion dollars for the first time in the corporation's 27-year history, and on-time performance improved four percentage points to 78 percent, the highest in 13 years.
For the full press release go to:
CHICAGO --December 28, 1998-- Amtrak's New York-New Orleans Crescent, posted a healthy eight percent ridership gain during fiscal year 1998 (Oct. 1, 1997-Sept. 30, 1998), reflecting similar improvements throughout the passenger railroad's nationwide system. The Crescent, which operates daily between New York City and New Orleans via Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Birmingham and other intermediate points, carried 267,007 passengers during FY'98, 20,000 more riders than in FY'97.
For the full press release go to:
CHICAGO --December 28, 1998-- Intercity passenger trains operated by Amtrak in partnership with the State of North Carolina posted strong gains during fiscal year 1998 (Oct. 1, 1997-Sept. 30, 1998), reflecting similar improvements throughout the passenger railroad's nationwide system. Amtrak services operated in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Transportation include the Charlotte-Raleigh-New York Carolinian and the Charlotte-Raleigh Piedmont. The two trains saw combined ridership climb 2 percent above FY'97, from 274,372 to 280,438 riders. Most significant was the increase posted by the Piedmont, which rose 10.5 percent from 43,300 to 47,833 riders.
For the full press release go to:
CHICAGO --December 28, 1998-- Amtrak Midwest Corridor routes radiating from Chicago posted strong gains during fiscal year 1998 (Oct. 1, 1997-Sept. 30 1998), reflecting similar improvements throughout the passenger railroad's nationwide system. Midwest Corridor routes, which serve such cities as Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Detroit/Pontiac, Mich., saw ridership climb 4 percent above FY'97, from 1.5 million to 1.6 million passengers.
For the full press release go to:
AMTRAK INTERCITY BEGINS HOLIDAY MARKETING CAMPAIGN-- December 23, 1998.-- Thousands and thousands of people will jam New York's Times Square on New Year's Eve. Some will see Dick Clark. They'll see the ball drop. But what else will they see?
Amtrak. Right there, big as day - actually, big as night. An innovative ad, promoting our Auto Train will be covering three sides of a Times Square building.
The ad, from Amtrak Intercity, features a 19-foot mechanical windshield wiper that actually moves back and forth on an insect-splattered windshield. The headline reads: "Bugged by I-95? Call 1-877-Skip I-95."
Another part of the building will feature a picture of a carrying handle attached to the roof of an automobile. The headline reads, "The ultimate carry-on." Finally, a wrap-around graphic of two long-legged men on lounge chairs facing each other appears with the headline, "900 miles of legroom."
And soon, more than 200,000 Chicago-area motorists traveling the north side of I-94 each day can view an enormous billboard promoting travel by Amtrak. The city will also be blitzed with bus billboards, banner ads, point-of-sale signage at Chicago Union Station, radio advertisements, newspaper inserts, and various events.
In Chicago, this is part of a major marketing campaign to aggressively promote rail travel with Amtrak.
Amtrak Board of Directors Names New President and CEO
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 -- Today at Union Station, the Board of Directors for Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, announced the selection of George Warrington to become the company's new President and Chief Executive Officer. Warrington, who has been serving as Acting President of Amtrak since December 1997, has more than 20 years of experience as a nationally recognized transportation leader and led Amtrak to one of its best years ever with record revenue and ridership gains.
"Today we have realized a primary goal as Amtrak turns the corner -- new, permanent and innovative leadership for the company. There is no better- qualified person than Warrington to take the helm of Amtrak as proven by his effective and business-like leadership this past year, and prior to that as head of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Strategic Business Unit," said Gov. Tommy Thompson, Amtrak's Board Chairman. "For the past year, Warrington has orchestrated a quiet but dramatic turnaround. With his vision for the future in place -- our Strategic Business Plan -- we have begun to see some positive results that will power Amtrak into the 21st century."
This year has been one of the best ever at Amtrak, with such milestones as:
* surpassing the $1 billion mark in passenger revenue for the first time in the company's history;
* accomplishing the best on-time performance in 13 years; and
* reaching collective bargaining agreements with 80 percent of the workforce.
At today's news conference, Warrington outlined his vision for Amtrak, which focuses on becoming operationally self-sufficient by the end of fiscal year 2002 and building a more modern national railroad. "The key to Amtrak's long-term success depends on transforming the national passenger rail network into a more market-driven service provider that offers the service, destinations and convenience that travelers want," Warrington said. "In 1998, we began turning the corner toward our goal, and through implementation of our commercially focused Strategic Business Plan, I am confident we will build upon this year's phenomenal results."
The cornerstone of the Strategic Business Plan, and one of Amtrak's greatest new revenue generators, is the 1999 launch of high speed rail between Boston, New York and Washington. Warrington initiated its planning, financing and implementation while serving as President of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. Other key business plan strategies include:
* the company's first market-based network analysis to attract new customers and satisfy the needs of Amtrak's 21-million customers; and
* the first comprehensive service standards program, to deliver improved consistent customer service and loyalty.
Under Warrington's leadership as President of the Northeast Corridor, his innovations improved the Corridor's bottom line by $200 million from 1994 to 1997. Ridership grew eight percent during that span to more than eleven million annually, while on-time performance rose to 90 percent.
At today's announcement, Warrington expressed his gratitude by thanking the Board and others who have played critical roles in Amtrak's recent performance. "Amtrak's success this year lies primarily with our dedicated employees who are literally the engine that drives this train. Success also lies with Congress, where lawmakers fully funded Amtrak's federal appropriation for the first time ever in the company's history, as well as states nationwide where we have begun and strengthened strategic partnerships. And, with grass roots supporters who tirelessly fight for a strong national rail network."
The President and CEO will immediately begin to bolster the broad-based coalition that supports Amtrak with a visit tomorrow to Chicago to meet employees and key supporters followed by trips to Los Angeles and New York, as well as meetings with Members of Congress and rail labor leaders.
Created by the federal government in 1971 to take over the rail passenger operations of the private railroads, Amtrak today serves more than 21 million customers annually on its national network of intercity trains and employs more than 24,000 people. Amtrak trains and connecting Thruway Motorcoaches serve more than 500 communities in 45 states. An additional 54 million customers use commuter services operated by Amtrak under contract to regional transportation authorities.
AMTRAK DISPUTES GOVERNMENT AUDIT--December 11, 1998. A government audit prepared by the U.S. Transportation Department's inspector general says that Amtrak could post an operating loss of $2 billion for the period between 1999 and 2003. The report warned that federal funds available for capital investment in the railroad could fall as much as $1.8 billion short of meeting Amtrak's needs for new passenger cars, locomotives and other equipment.
But Amtrak board chairman Tommy Thompson and vice chairman Michael Dukakis, in a letter to the inspector general, said the audit is a "point-in-time assessment" of the railroad that does not take into account the projected effects of recent revisions in the passenger railroad's business plan.
According to Amtrak, "the report did not consider our revised Strategic Business Plan or the latest performance figures. Congress mandated the report when it passed our reauthorization last year. The law said that the report would use our Strategic Business Plan for FY 1998, revised in March, in projecting our future finances. But a great deal has changed for the better since that business plan was written.
"There were other things that were not included. For instance, we've now identified more than $390 million in specific cost-cutting and revenue-building actions between now and FY 2003. And, our business plan, adopted three months ago, which the analysts didn't have, contains strategies that will increase that number even more in the coming years.
"The report also suggested that we may be a bit high on our revenue projections for High-Speed Rail. We disagree, based on assumptions made by the analysts, and also a long list of planned initiatives to support HSR that the report didn't consider. Despite disagreement with some aspects of the report, it did emphasize the importance of continued capital investment support by Congress. It also concluded that our accounting and financial tracking mechanisms are sound. Plus, it found that Amtrak does not underbid for outsourcing contracts. Revenue from those efforts, such as the recent contract for Ft. Worth (TX) commuter cars to be overhauled in Beech Grove, is crucial to supporting the national rail network."
IOWA RAIL SERVICE BOOMING!--December 11, 1998. According to a report in the The Des Moines Register, "Amtrak train ridership in Iowa is barreling ahead at full throttle, thanks to a healthy economy and rail fares that beat high-priced airline tickets." Iowa is served by two Amtrak trains: The California Zephyr and the Southwest Chief. "During the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, a total of 54,192 people got on or off Amtrak trains that stop daily at six depots in southern Iowa. That's an increase of 11 percent from a year ago. Over the past two fiscal years, Amtrak ridership in Iowa has steamed forward by a total of 26 percent," the newpaper reported.
And Iowans may get a third passenger train. The Register reported that "a consultant's study of Midwest rail passenger service unveiled in August suggested establishing service on the Iowa Interstate Railroad between Chicago and Omaha, with stops in the Quad Cities, Iowa City, Newton, Des Moines and Atlantic. Amtrak has also explored a third Iowa train, possibly on Iowa Interstate tracks or on the Union Pacific Railroad's main line through Clinton, Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, Ames and Carroll. The train would carry passengers, mail and time-sensitive cargo not usually shipped by freight railroads."
SOUTHEAST RAIL CORRIDOR ANNOUNCEMENT--December 11, 1998. Amtrak CEO George Warrington and Board Members Gov. Linwood Holton and Amy Rosen joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and state officials, including North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt in announcing a new high-speed rail corridor. It will extend south of Richmond, VA, through North and South Carolina, to Macon, GA, and Jacksonville, FL.
Although the start of high-speed service would be years away, the designation opens the door for the states to use federal funds for infrastructure improvements that would be needed before service could begin.
Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Expanded High-Speed Rail Program - Thursday, December 10, 1998 U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today announced the expansion of the high-speed rail corridor program originated under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991.
The program will expand the number of federally designated high-speed rail corridors from five to eleven. Designated corridors are eligible for funding to eliminate hazards at highway-rail crossings.
To date, eight corridors have been designated:
Pacific Northwest Corridor (Eugene, Ore&emdash;Portland, Ore&emdash;Seattle&emdash;Vancouver, B.C.);
Chicago Hub Corridor, extending from Chicago to St. Louis; to Detroit; to Minneapolis/St. Paul via Milwaukee;
Florida Corridor (Miami&emdash;Orlando&emdash;Tampa);
Southeast Corridor (linking the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va. (with an extension to Hampton Roads, Va.), Raleigh, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Savannah, Ga., Jacksonville, Fla.,
and another route linking Charlotte, N.C., Greensboro, N.C., Spartanburg, S.C., Atlanta and Macon, Ga.;
Gulf Coast Corridor; New Orleans hub extending westward to Baton Rouge, La., and Houston; and eastward to Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala.;
Keystone Corridor, (Philadelphia&emdash;Harrisburg, Pa.);
and The Empire Corridor, (New York City&emdash;Albany, N.Y.&emdash;Buffalo, N.Y.)
For the full press release go to: http://www.dot.gov/affairs/fra3198.htm
SURF BOARD TO RULE AGAIN ON BOSTON - PORTLAND ROUTE-- December 8, 1998. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) will now be asked to resolve the continuing dispute between Guilford Transportation and Amtrak over extension of service from Boston to Portland, ME. At issue now is whether or not Amtrak should be allowed to run the trains at 79 mph on the existing 115 lb. rail that is owned by Guilford. If the STB rules against Amtrak then trains would only reach 59 mph at top speed. Amtrak already runs trains at 79 mph on the same weight rail in other locations and Amtrak spokesman Rick Remington says he fully expects that the STB will rule in Amtrak's favor. The STB is expected to make an "expedited ruling" in the matter.
FT. WORTH DEPOT TO BE RESTORED--November 29, 1998. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that a local investor has plans to restore the 99 year old Santa Fe Railroad Depot and Santa Fe Railroad Freight Building in downtown Fort Worth, TX. The depot, constructed of distinctive red brick and white stone, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted Amtrak passenger trains since 1971. Shirlee Gandy, a Fort Worth investor who believes in saving parts of our heritage, has purchased the two properties and is investigating financial aid as she researches the cost of restoration.
UTU/BLE PLAN MERGER-- CLEVELAND, November 24, 1998 -- In an historic agreement with enormous potential, the United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) have adopted a Statement of Principles that will provide the foundation for a new organization to represent North American operating railroad employees and guarantee craft autonomy.
On November 23, 1998, the UTU Board of Directors unanimously voted for unification with the BLE by agreeing to a Statement of Principles. Concurrently, the BLE Advisory Board voted to accept the same Statement of Principles for forming the new union.
In addition, the UTU and BLE agreed to create the framework for finishing work on a new Constitution and Unification Agreement by October 1, 1999.
Members of the UTU and BLE will then vote on ratification effective January 1, 2000. A majority vote from the membership of each organization returning ballots is required.
Source: United Transportation Union
CASCADES SERVICE POSTPONED--November 24, 1998. An Amtrak notice advises the Launch of the Amtrak Cascades originally scheduled for December 1 has been postponed. Officials hope to launch the new service by the end of December.
Two Inaugural runs for the community Leaders will run on Nov 30 as scheduled. Actual service will begin once Amtrak, the Washington and Oregon State Departments of Transportation have reviewed and tested the new equipment.
AMTRAK REVENUE SETS ALL-TIME RECORD
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 -- Powered by the biggest ridership increase since 1988 -- 4.5 percent -- Amtrak's passenger revenue topped the $1 billion level for the first time in the corporation's 27-year history for Fiscal Year 1998 (Oct. 1 - Sept. 30). The ridership gain is nearly double last year's mark as Amtrak, the nation's passenger railroad, pursues its modernization program and drive toward operating self-sufficiency by the end of 2002. After Amtrak's Board of Directors reviewed the year-end performance results today, Gov. Tommy Thompson, Board Chairman, said, "Amtrak's record- breaking achievements are further proof that Amtrak has turned the corner to become a more commercially oriented, customer-focused corporation. These positive results are an incentive for us to redouble our efforts to sustain this momentum. As outlined in our new Strategic Business Plan, we're on the path to creating a more modern and financially sound national rail system." Among some of the other highlights of Amtrak's excellent results: * Increased on-time performance four percentage points to 78 percent, nationwide * Exceeded projected year-end financial results * Reduced employee injuries by 14 percent Amtrak's system-wide ridership rose 4.5 percent to 21,094,165 in FY98, versus FY97's total of 20,190,450 riders. In the last two fiscal years, ridership is up seven percent overall. As ridership in FY98 rose, so did passenger miles. (A passenger mile is one passenger carried one mile). The FY98 total increased 2.7 percent to 5.3 billion passenger miles. In addition to record-setting passenger revenue, Amtrak derives additional revenue from other sources, including contract commuter rail operations. Amtrak is now the nation's single-largest provider of contract commuter rail services for state and regional authorities. Operating seven services in six states with more than 54 million customer trips, these commuter services scored an impressive on-time performance of more than 97 percent. The corporation recently won two new contracts to operate commuter rail services in Southern California. The Metrolink commuter rail service awarded a new five-year, $80 million contract to continue operating and dispatching their trains. In surveys, Metrolink customers routinely gave the service high marks for on-time performance and customer service. And Amtrak also won a two-year, nearly $14 million contract extension to operate Coaster commuter trains. For the past two years, the Coasters have been the top safety performers in all of Amtrak's West Coast operations. In addition to contract-commuter service, Amtrak is aggressively pursuing other commercial ventures such as mail and express and insourcing to produce additional income for the corporation and is a main component of Amtrak's Strategic Business Plan. * The corporation's burgeoning mail and express shipment business set a record with $83 million in revenue, a 19-percent increase compared to FY97's $70 million figure. * Amtrak recently stepped up marketing efforts to win contracts to rebuild rail car equipment, called insourcing. Last month the corporation won a $7-million contract with the Fort Worth (Tex.) Transportation Authority to refurbish commuter rail cars and locomotives. "We will be more aggressive in all lines of our core business -- such as the introduction of high-speed rail in the Northeast next year -- and in related commercial ventures," said George D. Warrington, Amtrak's acting president. "Contract commuter rail operation and rail car and locomotive rebuilding, combined with other commercial initiatives such as mail and express, will improve Amtrak's bottom line even further." Created by the federal government in 1971 to take over the rail passenger operations of the private railroads, Amtrak today serves more than 21 million customers annually on its national network of intercity trains and employs 24,000 people. Amtrak trains and connecting Thruway Motorcoaches serve more than 500 communities in 44 states. An additional 54 million customers use commuter services operated by Amtrak under contract to regional transportation authorities. Amtrak Fiscal Year 1998 Fast Facts * Ridership grew faster than at any other time this past decade: 4.5 percent * Amtrak passenger-generated revenue set a record, surpassing $1 billion for the first time ever * On-time performance is at the highest level in 13 years: 78 percent * Employee injuries reduced by 14 percent * Amtrak's Contract-Commuter, Reimburseable and Commercial Business Lines -- non-core businesses -- have produced a combined operating profit of more than $93 million * Amtrak is the nation's leading provider of contract-commuter services for state and regional authorities * Amtrak's mail and express shipment business set a record for revenue: $83 million SOURCE Amtrak
WHITMAN RESIGNS FROM AMTRAK REFORM COUNCIL--November 11, 1998. Governor Christine Whitman (R-NJ) has resigned from the Amtrak Reform Council. The Council was created out of the Amtrak Reauthorization bill enacted by Congress a year ago and was given oversight responsibility for Amtrak's long-term planning. Whitman, who was appointed to the Council by Newt Gingrich, was elected chairman of the body just six months ago. The Council wanted $1.9 million to hire outside consultants to study Amtrak's progress in meeting its long term goals. Congress approved a $450,000 budget for 18 months but prohibited the hiring of outside consultants. News reports suggest that Whitman was miffed that Congress had tied the Council's hands. Paul Weyrich, head of the conservative Free Congress Foundation, is vice chairman of the ARC.
AMTRAK ESTABLISHES RAIL SALE PROGRAM--November 11, 1998. The following is a notice from Amtrak:
Amtrak is pleased to announce the launch of Rail SALE, your exclusive online resource for deep discounts on selected Amtrak fares.
Amtrak Rail SALE lets you take advantage of true bargains at short notice -- sometimes as much as 90% on selected Amtrak coach fares! Offers vary, so be sure to visit our web site for current offers and availability. Discounted tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we offer them only to online customers like you.
Check out some of our current fantastic fares: Head over to Amtrak Reservations at http://reservations.amtrak.com/ and sign in using your Amtrak Reservations User ID and Password, then click on the "Rail Sale" button atop your list of options. We'll see you there.
Enjoy the ride!
AMTRAK WINS CONTRACT TO REBUILD FORT WORTH COMMUTER TRAIN EQUIPMENT-- November 1, 1998. WASHINGTON-As part of a major initiative to increase Amtrak's revenues by making profitable use of the company's skills and assets, Amtrak today announced it had won a contract with the Fort Worth (Tex) Transportation Authority to overhaul commuter train equipment. Awarded on Oct 22, the approximately $7-million deal calls for Amtrak to completely overhaul and refurbish 10 bi-level commuter train coaches, as well as modify four diesel-electric locomotives. The work will be carried out at Amtrak's heavy maintenance facility in Beech Grove, IN.
NEW OKLAHOMA SERVICE MAY START NEXT SPRING - TEXAS EAGLE MAY GO TO DAILY SERVICE--October 30, 1998. A front page article by G. Chambers Williams III in the Friday, Oct. 30 edition of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram quotes Oklahoma transportation officials as saying that Amtrak will begin daily passenger train service between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City next spring, connecting with the Texas Eagle in Ft. Worth. Service would eventually be extended from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, KN via Tulsa, OK. The article quotes OK transportation official Joe R. Kyle Jr. saying that "Amtrak has been very cooperative, and we've been working pretty hard to get this done."
Oklahoma will receive an initial federal grant of $23 million to support the new train service. "After that money is spent, Oklahoma would be responsible for annual operating subsidies to keep the trains running," the newspaper said.
The Star-Telegram quotes BNSF spokesman Jim Sabourin saying that "The trains would follow the old Santa Fe line from Oklahoma City through Ardmore, Okla.; Gainesville; and the Alliance Airport area into downtown Fort Worth."
The article also reports that Amtrak plans to extend the 4 day a week Texas Eagle to daily service between Chicago and San Antonio via Ft. Worth.
AMTRAK HOPES TO TRIPLE EXPRESS REVENUE IN '99--October 30, 1998. An October 27 article by Rip Watson in the Journal of Commerce reports that Amtrak intends to triple its revenue from express service during the fiscal year 1999. The article reports that Ed Ellis, vice president of mail and express for Amtrak, has "sketched plans to boost the passenger railroad's cargo revenue to $107 million in the current fiscal year..."
The article also notes that:
--Amtrak plans to announce a decision in the next 30 days regarding possible entry into the $15 billion market for carrying perishables.
--Amtrak also is investigating same-day express service for small shipments in the Northeast Corridor when faster train service begins between Washington and Boston.
--Amtrak is less than 60 days away from resolving nagging mechanical problems with some of its equipment by placing a new type of shock absorber on some equipment.
AMTRAK TO ACQUIRE 44 NEW ROADRAILERS--October 30, 1998. Amtrak has announced that it will acquire 44 additional RoadRailer Mailvans, allowing for the continued growth of its Mail and Express business, which grew 19 percent in the last year to end the Fiscal Year 1998 at $83 million.
The Amtrak Board of Directors authorized the acquisition in support of a critical component of the corporation's recently approved Strategic Business Plan. Revenue from the Mail and Express business will help enable the railroad to achieve operating self-sufficiency by the end of 2002 and maintain a national system.
The RoadRailers, intermodal vehicles designed to operate on both trains and roadways, will be used to expand business with Amtrak's largest commercial customer, the United States Postal Service (USPS). Mail revenues have grown 10 percent annually. In addition, Amtrak's Express business has steadily grown in FY98, reaching a record high $1 million in monthly revenues in July, since the Surface Transportation Board's favorable decision in May 1998.
AMTRAK COMMENTS ON FUNDING--October 19, 1998 (press release of Oct. 16.). Amtrak today commended Congress for coming to an agreement to fully fund Amtrak by providing $609 million for Fiscal Year 1999. "Amtrak is pleased that Congress has reaffirmed its commitment to a national passenger rail system and to Amtrak's strategic business plan, which will create a more modern national rail system and achieve operating self-sufficiency by 2002," said George D. Warrington, acting president and CEO of Amtrak.
These goals are within reach if Congress and the Administration keep their commitment to provide a steady flow of capital investment funds for the railroad, including the $609 million contained in the Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Congress, however, did not clearly affirm the railroad's ability to spend the capital appropriation in the same manner as every other transportation mode. Amtrak will continue to seek clarification of this issue since flexibility in capital spending is critical to Amtrak's ability to reach operating self-sufficiency.
Last year, Congress committed itself to provide adequate capital investment funds, a new leadership team, and a gradually declining level of funding for day-to-day operations. For its part, Amtrak responded with a strategic business plan, major reforms, and new market-driven, customer-focused strategies that have increased ridership and improved the Corporation's bottom line.
In the coming weeks, Amtrak expects to announce the biggest ridership gains in a decade for the recently ended fiscal year (Oct. '97 - Sept. '98) and its Fiscal Year 1999 -- 2002 Strategic Business Plan. Created in 1971 to take over the rail passenger operations of the railroads, Amtrak today serves more than 20 million customers annually on its national network of intercity trains and employs more than 24,000 people. Amtrak trains and connecting Thruway Motorcoaches serve more than 500 communities in 45 states. An additional 48 million customers use commuter services operated by Amtrak under contract to regional transportation authorities.
CONGRESS FINALLY APPROVES SPENDING BILL--October 15, 1998. Congress finally approved an Omnibus Spending Bill for FY '99 that includes $609 million for Amtrak. This is the amount approved in the House version and $54 million more than the Senate bill. The $609 million for Amtrak in the omnibus bill is designated for capital investments, such as new locomotives and cars. The bill includes language that would give Amtrak more flexibility to use capital funds for car and locomotive maintenance. The money cannot, however, be used for maintenance of tracks, which will have to be paid for with funds from operating revenues.
NEW EVIDENCE SURFACES IN ARIZONA AMTRAK DERAILMENT--October 11, 1998. FBI agents reportedly believe that they have found evidence relating to the 1995 sabotage derailment of Amtrak's Sunset Limited deep within the treacherous confines of an abandoned Arizona mineshaft, this according to a story in today's "Arizona Republic."
"FBI Special Agent Ray Churay said investigators are trying to determine if an off-road vehicle that was yanked from the mine by a crane Saturday is linked to the Amtrak derailment," the newspaper reported.
The new evidence reportedly comes after FBI agents received a number of unrelated tips from informers familiar with the case. In what has become one of the most "intensive law enforcement probes on record," federal authorities say that the Amtrak case continues to be a top priority and that the reward for information in the case has been raised by $200,000 to $320,000!
ROSEN, HOLTON NAMED TO AMTRAK BOARD--October 10, 1998. Amy M. Rosen has been reappointed by President Clinton to a five-year term on the Board of Directors of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), effective Sept. 25, 1998. The United States Senate confirmed Ms. Rosen's nomination on Sept. 24, 1998.
The Honorable Linwood Holton, former Governor of Virginia, was appointed by President Clinton to the Board of Directors of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), effective Sept. 25, 1998. The United States Senate confirmed Gov. Holton's nomination on Sept. 24, 1998.
Gov. Holton joins board members Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson (Chairman); former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (Vice Chairman); U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater; Meridian, Miss. Mayor John Robert Smith and Amy Rosen.
AMTRAK TO INCREASE SERVICE TO UPSTATE N.Y. --October 10, 1998. Amtrak will increase service in western New York to four roundtrips daily this fall and make the move into the new Syracuse train station.
The increase in trains starting Oct. 25 helps fulfill a commitment by Amtrak to improve service in the Albany-Buffalo corridor and meet the upstate region's emerging ridership demand. A roundtrip train that now runs only four days a week between Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Albany and New York City will run seven days a week in each direction under the new schedule.
Starting Nov. 16, Amtrak will begin serving the new Syracuse intermodal transportation center, relocating operations from the current train station in East Syracuse. The new facility provides closer access to downtown Syracuse and Syracuse University. Ridership has been on the rise between Syracuse and a number of cities, particularly New York City and Albany, and is expected to accelerate with the new station.
TRANSPORTATION BILL STILL PENDING--October 9, 1998. A joint House-Senate Conference Committee was expected to take up the transportation bill for FY '99 sometime this past week. The 1999 fiscal year (FY) began Oct 1. Amtrak is being funded through a continuing resolution which is at the levels in President Clinton's budget request for FY99, or $621 million for Amtrak. This will end once a bill is passed and signed. But Congress seems to be in no hurry to pass a spending bill, making it increasingly difficult for Amtrak to plan for the next fiscal year! The appropriation process, which began early in the calendar year, should have been completed by now.
On Tuesday, September 15th, the House named it's conferees for the 1999 Transportation Appropriations Bill - HR 4328. It has turned out to be all the members of the Transportation Appropriations subcommittee plus the Chairman and ranking Democrat of the full committee.
Please let your Congressional representatives know that it is time to act and that you support the House bill's Amtrak allocation and the Senate bill's language that allows Amtrak to spend the funds for operations.
The House bill allots $609 million for Amtrak or $54 million more than the Senate bill but the Senate bill includes a broader definition of capital expenses to let Amtrak use some of the money to pay for items that have traditionally been defined as operating expenses.
THE CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD IS - 202/224-3121.
NARP CHARTS HOUSE VOTES ON AMTRAK--October 9, 1998. NARP has just posted a new House voting record chart online. The most recent vote on the House chart is from 1995 -- since there have been no useful recorded votes since then. To view the House voting chart go to:
Note that an X is an anti-rail vote while the -- is not voting.
NARP's Senate voting chart, which has been posted online for some time can be found at:
NEW FLORIDA EAST COAST TRAIN BEING CONSIDERED--October 7, 1998. Amtrak is considering a new Florida train along the east coastal cities on tracks owned by the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). It seems that Amtrak may be closer to an arrangement that would reroute one of the three existing Florida long distance trains. According to press reports, Raymond Lang, an Amtrak official, said the train line is "close to reaching an agreement" with FEC that would allow passenger trains on its tracks for daily rail service from Miami to New York. He said Amtrak is looking at a "handful of stops along the FEC ..." The new train would stop at about a half dozen cities along the east coast of Florida.
NEW YORK STATE - AMTRAK TO UPGRADE SERVICE --October 7, 1998. Amtrak and the state of New York will embark on a new five year $185 million high speed rail program designed to upgrade tracks and cut travel time from New York City to Albany to under two hours. Under the plan, a second track will also be built between Albany and Schenectady. Tracks will also be upgraded between Albany and Buffalo, cutting an additional hour off of that trip.
The plan calls for Super Steel Schenectady to put new high-speed turbine engines on five Amtrak Turboliners and fitting their accompanying set of five passenger cars with computer-based electronics and passenger accessories, such as laptop computer hookups and improved access for physically disabled riders. The trains will have engines on both ends, allowing them to change direction without turning around, which should allow Amtrak to get two or three extra trips a day without increasing the number of trains.
Amtrak and the state will split the $140 million cost of rebuilding seven Turboliner trains. Amtrak will supply half of the project's estimated overall $185 million cost, mainly using money from the Taxpayer Relief Act. The added remanufacturing work will create about 70 jobs for Super Steel Schenectady over five years. The company is already under a state contract to rebuild two Amtrak Turboliners. Upgrade work on five Turboliners will begin some time this winter
When the project is completed trains that now rarely exceed 90 miles per hour will cruise at 125 m.p.h. The upgrade is not expected to require a fare increase.
MIDWEST HIGH-SPEED RAIL NETWORK UPDATE--October 7, 1998. A draft study produced by Amtrak and nine state transportation departments concludes that a high-speed passenger rail network spanning nine Midwestern states could produce more frequent train service and cut travel time. "As the region continues to grow, traffic congestion on area roadways will only worsen," said Lee W. Bullock, president of Amtrak Intercity Strategic Business Unit.
According to the report, passengers would be whisked along at top speeds of 110 miles an hour cutting 2 hours off the travel time from Chicago to Detroit to four hours total. The proposed network would link cities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. The study indicates that it would take #3.5 billion from states and Congress to bring the network into full-scale operation. "The economic benefits to the region more than outweigh the necessary capital investment," Bullock said.
METROLINER RIDERSHIP UP!--October 1, 1998. Amtrak's premium Metroliner service marked the completion of a second consecutive record ridership year today with a customer celebration aboard the 3 p.m. train from Washington to New York.
Ridership aboard the Northeast Corridor trains for Amtrak's 1998 fiscal year --which ran from Oct. 1, 1997 through Sept. 30, 1998--will exceed 2.1 million, beating the ridership record of 2,081,326 that was set in FY 1997. The final exact count will be available in mid-October.
PRESIDENT CLINTON NAMES CLARENCE V. MONIN TO SERVE AS MEMBER OF THE AMTRAK REFORM COUNCIL--September 17, 1998. The President today announced his intent to appoint Clarence V. Monin to serve as a Member of the Amtrak Reform Council. Mr. Clarence V. Monin, of Cleveland, Ohio, is currently the International President of the 55,000 member Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE). BLE is North America's oldest rail brotherhood, representing railroad employees in the U.S. and Canada. Mr. Monin also serves on the Executive Committee of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. In 1996, Mr. Monin was also elected Vice Chairman of the Railway Labor Executives Association. From 1991 to 1996, Mr. Mooing served as BLE First Vice President & Alternate President. From 1985 to 1991, he served as BLE International Vice President. From 1978 to 1985, Mr. Monin was elected to serve as General Chairman of the BLE General Committee of Adjustment on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad line. In 1977, he served as Senior Vice-General Chairman. Mr. Mooing began his railroad career as a trainman on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (now CSX Transportation) in 1964. The Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) will operate separately from the Amtrak Reform Board. The ARC's purpose is to evaluate the Board's performance and make recommendations to Amtrak for achieving further cost containment and productivity improvements and financial reforms.
AMTRAK UPDATES WEBSITE--September 17, 1998. Amtrak has updated its website and its now up and running.
According to Amtrak, the new site will increase opportunities to purchase tickets and uses the latest technology to improve overall customer satisfaction.
The new site gives Web surfers the ability to link to any other section of the site, including reservations, with one mouse click because each page is built from a universal template.
Amtrak plans future additions to its Web site, such as Rail SALE that will offer customers deep-discount tickets on certain trains and destinations that have not been sold out.
AMTRAK NORTHEAST RIDERSHIP UP--September 17, 1998. Amtrak ridership in the Northeast grew another three percent during August and premium Metroliner service kept on a record-setting pace. Metroliner ridership was up 9.5 percent from August 1997 and, with one month to go in Amtrak's budget year, is on target to set an all-time high. Since the start of Amtrak's 1998 fiscal year last October, Northeast ridership is up 7.3 percent overall, at 10.9 million passengers.
EMPIRE STATE RIDERSHIP UP--September 17, 1998. Amtrak's Empire ridership in New York State grew another 6.1 percent during August and has already shattered the previous year's ridership mark in just 11 months, according to figures released today. Both Hudson Valley Service between Albany/Rensselaer and New York City, and western New York service between Albany and Buffalo showed increases during August. Service between New York City and Syracuse, Utica and Niagara Falls are among the fastest growing.
Through rail service is now restored for the Adirondack.
AMTRAK AND NINE STATES UNVEIL VISION FOR MIDWESTERN RAIL PASSENGER NETWORK --September 2, 1998. Amtrak and a consortium of nine state Departments of Transportation released a draft report today outlining the benefits of a Midwest regional passenger rail network. The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) features more frequent passenger train service operating at speeds up to 110 mph on a rail network radiating out of Chicago and connecting major Midwestern metropolitan areas.
Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin participated in the study which envisions an expanded passenger train network serving as a catalyst for economic development along the rail corridors and at rail passenger stations and an increase in manufacturing jobs constructing the new trains and rehabilitating railroad tracks.
The proposed 3,000 mile network would connect the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis/St. Paul; Madison, Wisc.; Milwaukee; Omaha, Neb.; Des Moines, Iowa; Kansas City; St. Louis; Indianapolis; Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio; Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich., and others through a Chicago hub.
For the full press release go to: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk98107.html
AMTRAK MAY CREATE BOSTON-ST.LOUIS TRAIN--August 18, 1998. Word has it that Amtrak is planning on yet another new train following the start up of the daytime Ohio Pennsylvanian in November and a fifth day a week Texas Eagle. The new train would result from the break up of the existing Lake Shore Ltd. and would run from Boston to St. Louis via Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati-Southern Indiana/Illinois. The Boston Lake Shore cars would be used for the consist. Amtrak would still maintain its Lake Shore Ltd. service from New York to Chicago. This new Boston to St. Louis train would be paid for 100% by mail & express service. Amtrak likes the idea of a St. Louis terminus because Chicago is quickly running out of space for the booming mail & express business.
HOUSE PASSES TRANSPORTATION BILL--July 30, 1998. The House of Representatives early this morning passed the transportation bill for FY '99. The House bill allots $609 million for Amtrak or $54 million more than the Senate bill.
The $609 million for Amtrak in the House bill is intended solely for capital investments, such as new locomotives and cars and track improvements. The Senate bill, which provides $555 million for Amtrak, includes a broader definition of capital expenses to let Amtrak use some of the money to pay for items that have traditionally been defined as operating expenses, such as doing electrical overhauls or toilet replacements on existing cars.
The stricter definition of capital investment in the House bill often forces Amtrak to overhaul or even replace an entire car rather than make cheaper repairs to avoid dipping into limited operating funds. Amtrak will push for the Senate definition of capital investments when House and Senate negotiators sit down to resolve differences.
SENATE PASSES TRANSPORTATION BILL--July 24, 1998. The full Senate passed its version of the 1999 transportation budget. Here's how the figures break down:
$27 billion for the Federal Highway Administration.
$9.85 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration.
$5.36 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.
$2.1 billion for airport improvements.
$555 million for Amtrak.
$200 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System
The $555 million for Amtrak is less than that appropriated by the House Transportation Committee. No Amtrak Amendments were attached.
According to NARP, the House Rules Committee now takes up the House Appropriations bill for transportation on Monday. General debate is scheduled for Tuesday with debate on amendments on Wednesday. We will not know for sure whether there are any anti- Amtrak amendments until the Rules Committee meets.
YOU ARE URGED TO CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES IN THE HOUSE AND ASK THEM TO OPPOSE ANY ANTI-AMTRAK AMENDMENTS TO THE TRANSPORTATION BILL.
THE CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD IS - 202/224-3121.
For House e-mail addresses go to:
Be sure to include your name and address when writing.
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE APPROVES $609 MILLION FOR AMTRAK-- July 22, 1998. More good news for Amtrak--Today the full House Appropriations Committee approved passed a $46.9 billion Transportation budget for FY '99 that includes $609 million for Amtrak. The bill, approved by voice vote, provides $54 million more than similar legislation passed by the Senate. The difference will have to be reconciled by a joint House-Senate Conference Committee. While the original grant request from the Clinton Administration and Amtrak was for an appropriation of $621 million, $12 million of that amount was for specific projects that have been funded separately, leaving $609 million that meets Amtrak's funding requirements.
GOOD NEWS - HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE VOTES $609 MILLION FOR AMTRAK! --July 16, 1998. The House Appropriations Subcommittee approved $609 million for Amtrak for Fiscal Year (FY) '99. Following today's vote, Amtrak Acting President George D. Warrington told the press, "On behalf of the millions of people who rely on Amtrak, I thank Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf for his leadership. By providing $609 million for Amtrak, Chairman Wolf and the Subcommittee have kept faith with the Congressional agreement to provide the necessary support to make Amtrak a self-sufficient national passenger rail system by 2002."
Earlier this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $555 million in funding for Amtrak. Warrington said Amtrak will push for the funding contained in the House bill throughout the rest of the appropriation's process.
FULL SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE APPROVES $555 MILLION FOR AMTRAK-- July 15, 1998. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $555 million in funding for Amtrak yesterday. This is $66 million short of what President Clinton had proposed but still a far cry from what Committee Chairman Shelby (R-AL) had insisted upon when he urged lawmakers to zero out all Amtrak funding. "I'm sorry we can't fully fund the needs of the railroad," said New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, the Transportation Subcommittee's ranking Democrat and one of Amtrak's most vocal Senate backers. Nevertheless this is another victory for Amtrak supporters who fought to overcome the Shelby efforts to block all funding. The House now takes up a similar funding measure.
SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE FUNDS AMTRAK - HOUSE BILL NEXT!--July 12, 1998. The Senate Subcommittee met on Wednesday, July 8 and passed a funding bill with $555 million for Amtrak. This is 90% of what Amtrak requested and a far cry from the zero budget proposed by Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL). NARP credits the Subcommittee's ranking Democrat Frank Lautenberg with crafting the agreement. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the bill on Tuesday, July 14. The bill will include another $450,000 for the Amtrak Reform Council. This is above the $50,000 already provided.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation is expected to take up the House version of this bill on Thursday, July 16. It is important now to write to your legislator in the House to request full funding for Amtrak in the FY '99 budget. To find the e-mail address of your House representative go to:
To date, Amtrak has improved its bottom line by $323 million, reduced costs by $137 million, generated commercial revenue of $150 million since 1994, and has increased ridership by nearly seven percent this year.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - as of JULY 15, 1998
FY 1999 Transportation Bill--Becomes effective October, 1998 --President Clinton submitted his request for full funding. This is for $621 million in a capital-only grant, paired with permission for Amtrak to classify capital projects in the same way as other federally funded transportation programs such as aviation, highway and transit. The administration also recommended a total of $2.1 billion in capital investment funds for the following four years, FY 2000-03.
The Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee approved $555 million.
Full Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the $555 million budget for FY '99. Note that this is still $66 million less than what President Clinton had proposed.
House Appropriations Committee must also follow suit.
ISTEA--the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (pronounced ICE-TEA) was reauthorized by Congress on May 22.
Amtrak and its supporters fought to have the new Act amended so that states would be allowed the "flexibility" to spend the federal transportation funds on Intercity Rail (i.e. Amtrak) if they so wished. The Senate passed a version of the bill that would allow for "flexibility." The House bill did not. In Conference the final report favored the House bill and Amtrak thus lost an important source of funding. Once again House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster (R-PA) successfully led the Amtrak opposition.
AMTRAK ORDERS NEW TRAINSETS--August 18, 1998. The consortium that is building the American Flyers for Amtrak - Alsthom/Bombardier - announced that Amtrak had ordered two more trainsets for an additional cost of $43 million - financed in total by the builder. Amtrak already has on order for the consortium - 18 American Flyer sets and 15 high-horsepower electric locomotives.
BUS SERVICE REPORT--August 18, 1998. Effective September 1st, the interline connection between Lamy and Santa Fe, NM will become a full-fledged Amtrak Thruway Service, however the Greyhound interline connection between Albuquerque and Amarillo, Texas will be dropped. Travelers will have to make arrangements for the connection on their own.
AMTRAK TO CREATE DAYLIGHT SERVICE TO OHIO--August 15, 1998. Passenger train service will be expanded through Pennsylvania and across northern Ohio and Indiana on Nov. 7, 1998, when Amtrak offers new service with morning departures from Philadelphia and Chicago. The extension of service by the Pennsylvanian will provide the first through daylight service between the City of Brotherly Love and the Windy City.
The westbound Pennsylvanian will originate in Philadelphia daily at 6:35 a.m., depart Pittsburgh at 2:17 p.m., depart Cleveland at 5:45 p.m., depart Toledo, Ohio, at 8:08 p.m., depart South Bend, Ind., at 9:40 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 11:59 p.m. The eastbound Pennsylvanian will depart Chicago daily at 6:00 a.m., depart South Bend at 7:30 a.m., depart Toledo at 11:20 a.m., depart Cleveland at 1:15 p.m., depart Pittsburgh at 4:53 p.m. and arrive in Philadelphia at 12:25 a.m. on the following morning.
The Pennsylvanian offers customers comfortable, reclining coach seats with legrests and footrests. Sandwiches, snacks and beverages are available at all times in the food service car. The Pennsylvanian will operate as an all-reserved train, except for local travel between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.
Although the train is now called the Pennsylvanian, Amtrak employees will submit suggestions for a new name for the train that better reflects its expanded route.
The Pennsylvanian will operate daily between Pittsburgh and New York, via Philadelphia, on its current schedule through Oct. 24, 1998. Between Oct. 25, 1998, and Nov. 7, 1998, the Pennsylvanian will operate only between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Effective with the Nov. 7 service extension to Chicago, that city will become the Pennsylvanian's western terminus and Philadelphia will be the train's eastern terminus.
To replace the Pennsylvanian service between New York and Philadelphia, Amtrak will introduce a new Keystone Service train on Oct. 25 that will run on the same schedule as now offered by the Pennsylvanian. The new Keystone train will continue west from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. An additional eastbound Keystone train will originate in Harrisburg to replace the Pennsylvanian service between Philadelphia and New York.
AMTRAK - BLE REACH CONTRACT AGREEMENT--August 15, 1998. The rank and file of the Brotherhood Of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) reached an agreement with Amtrak. One of the new work rules is that Amtrak trains can operate with a single engineer (no fireman) if the scheduled running time between two points is six hours or less.
The effects in Kansas City were immediate. As of August 12, both trains between Kansas City and St. Louis will now operate with a single engineer.
TEXAS EAGLE UPDATE--July 31, 1998. July 30, 1998 Through car operation on the TEXAS EAGLE / SUNSET LIMITED, formerly planned to end at the end of September, is now extended to the end of May 1999 (with further extension pending). This may not yet be in Arrow, but will be shortly. The through cars have resulted in a significant increase in ridership on the south end of the EAGLE, although the operation of these cars has frequently held the westbound EAGLE hostage at San Antonio due to extremely poor on-time performance of the westbound SUNSET over the Union Pacific.
AMTRAK RIDERSHIP & REVENUES UP!--July 29, 1998. At its first in-person meeting today, Amtrak's new Board of Directors reviewed third quarter results that showed every one of the railroad's performance indicators improving compared to the same period last year. For the third quarter, Amtrak ridership increased 5.8 percent. Revenues for the third quarter remain strong at $5.5 million better than projected in Amtrak's Strategic Business Plan, and $12.7 million better than the projections for the fiscal year, so far.
Amtrak maintained its reliable on-time performance -- an important measure of customer satisfaction. For the fiscal year, Amtrak's on-time performance is 79.6 percent compared to 75.9 percent for the comparable period a year ago.
Meanwhile, Amtrak's customer satisfaction rating remains high, scoring 85 out of a possible 100.
And measures of employee safety continue to make strong improvements. For the third quarter, the percentage of employee injuries decreased 21 percent, and for the fiscal year, employee injuries are down 14 percent.
FRA Orders New Safety System For the Northeast Corridor--July 22, 1998. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today ordered installation of a new train control system to ensure safety for faster trains on the northeast corridor between New Haven, Conn., and Boston.
The new Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES), in combination with existing cab signal and automatic train control features already in place, will complete the elements of Positive Train Control (PTC) for a key portion of the nations busiest railroad.
In addition to Amtrak, entities subject to the order include commuter service provided by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, as well as two freight operators, Providence and Worcester Railroad.
The order also authorizes Amtrak to increase speeds to 135 miles per hour south of New York City for its equipped high speed trains after installation of ACSES on high-speed tracks.
SUCCESS STORY: AMTRAK AND ILLINOIS PARTNERSHIP RESULTS IN MORE ON- TIME TRAINS AND HIGHER RIDERSHIP--July 17, 1998. Amtrak fulfilled its commitment to the State of Illinois to improve rail passenger service in the first year of a three-year-contract, ending June 30, 1998. More than 99 percent of the trains originated on-time, nearly 90 percent of the trains completed their trips on time, ridership on the four routes grew by as much as 18 percent and Amtrak introduced new customer service enhancements.
Amtrak operates daily round-trip trains to Carbondale and Quincy, Ill., and St. Louis in partnership with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Additional daily service between Chicago and Milwaukee is supported by Amtrak, IDOT and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
For full press release go to: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk98103.html
AKRON REPORT--July 17, 1998. The Akron Beacon Journal on July 12 reported that the city of Akron is putting the finishing touches on a modular Amtrak station. This should allow the New York City-Pittsburgh-Chicago "Three Rivers" to begin making station stops in Akron by the end of the summer. Akron has been without passenger rail service since Sept. 1995 when Amtrak cut the "Broadway Limited." Amtrak reinstituted service through Akron in Nov. 1996 with the "Three Rivers", but didn't make stops in Akron because the previous modular station had been removed and resused elsewhere. A new station had to be built, but the City of Akron balked at the $100,000 cost. The new station was constructed on the site of the old one--immediately adjacent to the Quaker Square Hilton in downtown Akron. The previous loading platform will be used.
Based on current running times, the "Three Rivers" will make daily (ie: nightly) stops in Akron at about 2:20 a.m. westbound, and 4:10 a.m. eastbound. However, reality may be far different than what the schedule says, since the "Three Rivers" has been experiencing 1-3 hour delays on a regular basis, due mostly to CSX's $220 million double-tracking project across Western Ohio and Indiana. Call Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL before leaving home to catch your train.
FLORIDA RAIL AND WILDFIRES REPORT--July 13, 1998.
Special to Friends of Amtrak
By Leo King, Transportation Journalist
Much of May, all of June and the early part of July was like Hell for a great part of Florida: it burned - and with the foliage fires came destruction to people's homes and damage to some railroad properties, notably CSX's and FEC's tracks. Particularly hard-hit was Flagler County, about 50 miles south of Jacksonville, through which both railroads operate, but so were St. John's, Clay and Volusia Counties, through which Amtrak, CSX and FEC operate. By July 10, some half-million of acres had burned, and new fires were still breaking out, though less frequently. From Chicago, Amtrak's Marc Magliari said that "The only outright cancellations were Numbers 52 & 53" of July 3. Magliari added, "Everything else had run, using the WWD sub [Wildwood Subdivision] sometimes as a detour route. The only other serious disruption were truncated trains 1 and 2 earlier in the week at Jacksonville instead of service through to Orlando."
In all, Amtrak trains 52, 98, 92, 97 and 53 that originated on July 2 detoured via CSXT's Wildwood Subdivision. Other sources said that train No. 2, which had originated in Los Angeles on June 30, terminated at Jacksonville and turned there for No. 1. AutoTrain departures were canceled for July 3rd.
CSXT and FEC were hit by the firestorms that were finally doused by firefighters from all over the country pitching in, and, finally, a healthy dose of rain from Mother Nature. CSX helped out big time by operating a couple of pig extras loaded with fire trucks and their crews.
You'll be able to read the rest of this report in "RailNews" Magazine.
LOTT SAYS FUND AMTRAK!--July 8, 1998. Amtrak picked up key support today as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) told reporters that he supports continued funding for Amtrak. "I personally would like to see Amtrak funded," Lott told reporters. It is highly unusual for a Senate leader of Lott's stature to speak out against the wishes of a committee chairman, in this case Richard Shelby (R-AL) who, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee has fought to zero out all Amtrak funding.
Thank you Senator Lott!
You can thank Senator Lott by writing to him:
CLICK HERE to send Senator Lott an e-mail of thanks.
AMTRAK RIDERSHIP ON THE INCREASE--July 5, 1998. Amtrak, the nation's intercity passenger railroad, enters the July Fourth holiday travel period on the upswing: ridership on the railroad has increased for 18 consecutive months, compared to the same month the previous year. In May, the number of customers using Amtrak trains rose 4.6 percent to 1,843,289, compared to May, 1997, when the company transported 1,762,903 customers. Passenger miles rose, too, by 4.2 percent during the month to 460.5 million passenger miles. A passenger mile is one passenger carried one mile.
Passenger highlights among Amtrak's three strategic business units include, on the Northeast Corridor, yet another Metroliner ridership increase during May, keeping the premium, fast New York-Washington service on track to beat last year's all-time ridership record. In Amtrak Intercity, the Chicago-Portland/Seattle Empire Builder experienced increased May ridership of 25.5 percent and nearly 40 percent for the first eight months of the fiscal year. Amtrak West's Pacific Northwest Corridor ridership jumped 22.3 percent during May.
AMTRAK INTERCITY SBU POSTS IMPRESSIVE RIDERSHIP GAINS-- July 3, 1998. Increased frequencies and improved customer service are paying off with ridership gains at Amtrak for some of the most famous names in passenger railroading: the California Zephyr, the Empire Builder, the Southwest Chief and the Texas Eagle trains carried nearly 5,000 more passengers in May 1998 than in May 1997.
The four services collectively carried 15.6 percent more passengers in May 1998 than in May 1997. Individually, each train's ridership was up by double-digits in May 1998, including a 23.9 percent increase on the California Zephyr, a 25.5 percent increase on the Empire Builder, a 13.5 percent increase on the Southwest Chief and a 56.3 percent increase on the Texas Eagle.
WARRINGTON APPEALS FOR SENATE APPROVAL OF FULL FUNDING--July 3, 1998. Amtrak acting president and chief executive officer George Warrington said Wednesday that Amtrak could wean itself from public funding by 2002 if Congress keeps its end of the bargain with a final injection of funds. "Congress should fulfill its commitment by providing the needed funds between now and 2002," Warrington noted. "Frankly anything less than that would squander the nation's multibillion (dollar) investment in passenger railroad service," he said. Some $145 million of Amtrak operating losses represent federally mandated retirement payments for freight railroad workers laid off in mergers. "We believe that's not a fair expense for us ... or taxpayers to be accepting," Warrington told reporters.
Warrington predicted that Amtrak would increase its market share along the northeast corridor, that high speed and commuter corridors would play a larger role in Amtrak's future, and that the Surf Board's favorable decison allowing Amtrak to carry express freight would help "to underwrite some of those trains that may not be winners." Warrington noted that in the future Amtrak would be driven by a market-based approach but declined to say whether unprofitable routes would eventually be cut.
HOOSIER SERVICE REINSTATED--July 3, 1998. Effective July 19, Amtrak will restore the Hoosier State service, which last ran in September 1995. It will run tri-weekly between Chicago and Indianapolis on days that the Cardinal does not, which would be Sunday, Wednesday, Friday in both directions. There would be no Monday southbound train and no Tuesday northbound train. The new train will handle equipment moves between Chicago and Beech Grove, providing some relief for the Cardinal. The new train will use one reserved Superliner coach, with no food service, on the same schedule as the Cardinal.
SENATE CONFIRMS ONLY HALF OF CLINTON AMTRAK BOARD APPOINTEES-- July 2, 1998. Last week the Senate confirmed only three of President Clinton's appointees to the Amtrak board. Confirmed were Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (R), former Massachusetts governor Michael S. Dukakis (D) and Meridian, Miss., Mayor John Robert Smith. Ignored were were Washington lawyer Sylvia A. de Leon and New Jersey transportation official Amy Rosen, and former Virginia governor A. Linwood Holton Jr. (R).
AMTRAK BOARD OF DIRECTORS--On May 21, 1997, President clinton submitted his nominations for Amtrak's new Reform Based Board of Directors. The nominees are: Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, former MA Gov. Michael Dukakis, former VA Gov. Linwood Holton, Meridian, MS Mayor John Robert Smith, current board members Sylvia de Leon and Amy Rosen, and Dept. of Transportation Sec'y Rodney Slater.
On June 25, the Senate voted to confirm Thompson, Dukakis and Smith. Slater did not need confirmation. These four members met on June 30 to convene the new board. There is no indication about when the Senate will consider the three remaining nominees (de Leon, Rosen and Holton).
As part of the "Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act" of 1997, Congress required the installation of a new seven-member board to replace the current nine-member board. The Amtrak President will serve as an eighth, non-voting, member of the board. The new board will be responsible for overseeing management's operation of the corporation, for approving major financial commitments, including capital expenditures, and for setting policy and direction. The board will also appoint a new president for Amtrak.
The new Board of Directors is separate and distinct from the Amtrak Reform Council (ARC), which was directly appointed by congressional leaders and the President. The ARC's responsibilities include providing specific recommendations to Amtrak for cost containment and reporting to Congress on Amtrak's progress toward achieving operating self sufficiency by 2002.
The Amtrak Reform Council consists of:
Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, Bruce Chapman of Washington (President of the Discovery Institute, a conservative Seattle-based think tank), and Christopher Gleason of Pennsylvania (a member of Bud Shuster's Blue Ribbon Panel that recommended breaking up Amtrak). All were named by House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) appointed Paul Weyrich, a former Amtrak board member (1987-1993), Gil Carmichael, former Federal Railroad Administrator (1898-93), and Joseph Vranich. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) named former Senate staffer Don Sweitzer, a former staffer for Senator Metzenbaum and an ally of rail labor. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-IN) named S. Lee Kling, a banker, former Missouri DOT commissioner and former Amtrak board member (1979-1981).
SENATOR HUTCHISON CONFIRMS IT - SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE SEEKS TO ZERO OUT AMTRAK - YOUR SUPPORT NEEDED! --June 26, 1998. The Associated Press is quoting Amtrak supporter and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) as saying that Amtrak is going to have a bumpy ride through the Senate and that routes outside the Northeast Corridor are in serious peril. Mrs. Hutchison said the Texas Eagle may be in jeopardy anew if Amtrak doesn't receive any operations subsidies from Congress. According to the AP the Senator, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, is hearing rumblings that the transportation appropriations subcommittee is preparing a 1999 spending bill that includes no money for Amtrak operations.
This story from the A.P. is consistent with what I've been reporting for some time--that Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, would like to zero out Amtrak altogether.
Once again, folks, I urge you to write your Senators and tell them to support full appropriations for Amtrak in the Fiscal Year (FY) 1999 budget.
For e-mail addresses of U.S. Senators go to:
HERE'S THE LIST OF THE MEMBERS OF THE SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION:
Shelby (AL) email@example.com
Domenici (NM) firstname.lastname@example.org
Specter (PA) email@example.com
Bond (MO) firstname.lastname@example.org
Gorton (WA) email@example.com
Bennett (UT) firstname.lastname@example.org
Faircloth (NC) email@example.com
Stevens (AK) firstname.lastname@example.org
Lautenberg (NJ) email@example.com
Byrd (WV) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mikulski (MD) email@example.com
Reid (NV) firstname.lastname@example.org
Kohl (WI) email@example.com
Murray (WA) firstname.lastname@example.org
When you write be sure to include your home address.
AMTRAK NORTHEAST RIDERSHIP UP 6.8%--June 24, 1998. Amtrak ridership in the Northeast increased for the 13th consecutive month in May, growing 6.8 percent over May 1997, and broke the million mark for the third straight month.
The growth was paced by a seven percent increase in Metroliner ridership which is on course to break last year's ridership record. NortheastDirect Service between Boston, New York, Washington and Virginia - which accounts for one of every four Amtrak riders nationally-- grew 2.3 percent for the month, nearly breaking the half-million mark. On-time performance for all trains throughout the Northeast was 86.6 percent. By comparison, the average on-time performance for the major airlines was 79.1 percent during April, the most recent month available.
UPDATE ON PROPOSED OKLAHOMA SERVICE--June 18, 1998. The Oklahoma Amtrak service is planning to start about May 15,1999. Service is proposed to be from Oklahoma City to Ft. Worth. Trying to run it out of Kansas City would have been difficult due to heavy traffic on BNSF. From what I understand this is just the first step with an extension of this service down the road a bit. Amtrak crews based in Ft. Worth will operate the trains.
SHUSTER INVESTIGATION CONTINUES--JUNE 16, 1998-- A Congressional Ethics Committee has agreed to a request from federal prosecutors not to conduct interviews and depose witnesses in connection with the committee's investigation of Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa. Shuster is the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure that oversees Amtrak funding. The request from the Justice Department indicates that prosecutors have turned their attention to Rep. Shuster, whose longtime aide, Ann Eppard, was recently indicted by the government for bribery and corruption that allegedly occured while she was Rep. Shuster's chief of staff. The Ethics Committee is looking into allegations that Rep. Shuster may have improperly received favors from lobbyists, including many from transportation industries. The Department of Justice has indicated that its ongoing criminal investigation may relate to matters similar to those under investigation by the Committee.
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS MARK-UP DELAYED AGAIN - SHELBY SEEKS ZERO BUDGET FOR AMTRAK--June 18, 1998. The mark-up by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee has been postponed once again. Word is that Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is now trying to zero out Amtrak in the FY '99 budget! The mark-up could come some time next week.
If you would like to let Senator Shelby know how you feel about this you can e-mail him at:
URGENT!!--CALL SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS - MARK UP POSTPONED The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, chaired by Richard Shelby (R-AL), has postponed its markup to next week.
It is believed that Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) plans to drastically underfund Amtrak -- that is, if he funds it at all. There is still time to contact subcommitee members, urging them both to work for adequate Amtrak funding AND urging sympathetic senators to sign a joint letter in support of adequate Amtrak funding.
Amtrak and the Clinton Administration are making the same request -- $621 million in capital and clarification of the right to spend appropriated capital on maintenance items.
If your Senators are on the Subcommittee (see list below) please call and ask that they support the $621 million capital appropriation and the right to spend the funds on maintenance.
Please act as soon as possible. This is very important!!
The subcommittee members are:
Richard C. Shelby, AL, chairman
Arlen Specter, PA
Pete V. Domenici, NM
Christopher S. Bond, MO
Slade Gorton, WA
Robert F. Bennett, UT
Lauch Faircloth, NC
Frank R. Lautenberg, NJ, ranking member
Robert C. Byrd, WV
Barbara A. Mikulski, MD
Harry Reid, NV
Herb Kohl, WI
Patty Murray, WA
If you do not know your Senator's phone number, the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) can connect you. Senate e-mail addresses are available at web site http://www.senate.gov/senator/membmail.html
STB APPROVES CONRAIL SPLIT--June 16, 1998. The Surface Transportation Board has approved the CSX/Norfolk Southern takeover of Conrail. For info see the STB press release at:
OKLAHOMA TASK FORCE--June 16, 1998. A task force is now being put together to determine the exact route of the new Oklahoma City Amtrak service. Routes under consideration are:
OK City to Wichita--Newton,KS
OK City to Tulsa--Kansas City
OK City to St. Louis--Chicago
AMTRAK TEXAS EAGLE MAKES CONNECTIONS TO HOT SPRINGS, ARK.--June 14, 1998. Direct connections are now possible from the Amtrak Texas Eagle to hotels, resorts and other locations in Hot Springs, Ark., the scenic and historic resort area known as Americas Spa.
This expansion of Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach Service meets the Chicago-San Antonio-(Los Angeles) Texas Eagle at the Amtrak stations in Little Rock, located at Markham & Victory Streets, and Malvern, located at 200 E. 1st. St., Ark. Passengers are transported to and from Hot Springs National Park, area lodging and attractions, the Transportation Plaza at 100 Broadway Terrace Plaza in Hot Springs or even private homes in the immediate vicinity of Hot Springs.
Roth/Kerry Pro-Amtrak Letter Signed By 52 Senators--June 12, 1998-- Amtrak's funding for Fiscal Year 1999 is now looking brighter. 52 Senators (39 Democrats and 13 Republicans) have signed a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Senator Shelby (R-AL) urging full funding for Fiscal Yearl (FY) 1999. Shelby is proposing drastic cuts in the proposed budget.
The current scheduled date for the Subcommittee to meet and approve a bill is Tuesday, June 16. That session could still go bad for intercity passenger train funding, but having over half the Senate on record in support of full funding makes a more favorable final outcome more likely.
Below are the names of the 52 signatories.
ALASKA - Murkowski (R) CALIFORNIA - Feinstein (D) , Boxer (D) CONNECTICUT - Dodd (D), Lieberman (D) DELAWARE - Roth (R), Biden (D) GEORGIA - Cleland (D) HAWAII - Akaka (D), Inouye (D) ILLINOIS - Moseley-Braun (D), Durbin (D) INDIANA - Lugar (R) KENTUCKY - Ford (D) LOUISIANA - Breaux (D), Landrieu (D) MAINE - Collins (R), Snowe (R) MARYLAND - Mikulski (D), Sarbanes (D) MASSACHUSETTS - Kerry (D), Kennedy (D) MICHIGAN - Levin (D) MINNESOTA - Wellstone (D) MONTANA - Burns (R), Baucus (D) NEBRASKA - Kerrey (D) NEVADA - Reid (D), Bryan (D) NEW JERSEY - Lautenberg (D), Torricelli (D) NEW MEXICO - Bingaman (D) NEW YORK - Moynihan (D), D'Amato (R) NORTH DAKOTA - Conrad (D), Dorgan (D) OHIO - DeWine (R), Glenn (D) OREGON - Wyden (D) PENNSYLVANIA - Specter (R), Santorum (R) RHODE ISLAND - Chafee (R), Reed (D) SOUTH CAROLINA - Hollings (D) TEXAS - Hutchison (R) VERMONT - Jeffords (R), Leahy (D) VIRGINIA - Robb (D) WASHINGTON - Murray (D) WEST VIRGINIA - Rockefeller (D) WISCONSIN - Feingold (D), Kohl (D)
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD FAVORS AMTRAK ON EXPRESS SERVICE AND BOSTON TO PORTLAND, ME ROUTE--May 29, 1998. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) today made two rulings favorable to Amtrak.
1. Boston to Portland, ME Service-- The Surface Transportation Board announced today that the Board has set the terms and conditions for Amtrak's use of certain rail facilities owned by the Guilford Rail System. The Board's decision clears the way for Amtrak to determine how to use nearly $40 million in public funds that have been set aside for rehabilitating the Guilford line between Plaistow, NH and Portland, ME so that passenger rail service can be reestablished between Boston, MA and Portland.
The Board rejected Guilford's request that Amtrak be forced to buy insurance rather than itself indemnify Guilford for losses, finding no merit to Guilford's claim that Amtrak is too dependent on the Congressional appropriations process, and that its survival is too uncertain. Thus, the Board gave Amtrak the option, prior to instituting service, of either buying insurance, or itself agreeing to indemnify Guilford from any liability that Guilford could incur as a result of Amtrak operations. The Board rejected Guilford's request that Amtrak also should be required to buy insurance to protect Guilford from liability incurred as a result of Guilford's own negligence or misconduct.
2. Amtrak Express Service--The Board also ordered the Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP) and its affiliate, Southern Pacific Transportation Company (SP) (collectively, UP/SP), to permit Amtrak to transport express over UP/SP lines. The STB found, as Amtrak had suggested, that "express" need not be restricted by commodity, shipment size, type of equipment, or a variety of other operational factors that may have been applied in the past, but instead should be defined more flexibly as a premium transportation service at premium rates - expedited, regularly scheduled train service provided at prices which are generally higher than freight service - that is provided as an adjunct to Amtrak's passenger service.
The Board found generally that, because Amtrak's proposed express service would fall within the limits described above, and because Amtrak's proposal reflects the legislative intent that it take steps to increase express revenue, the Board should not block Amtrak's efforts by defining express narrowly. In addition, it found that Amtrak may not run express-only trains, except on the Northeast Corridor, which Amtrak owns, and that express service generally must be an adjunct to genuine passenger service.
As always, letters to newspapers are also helpful and please feel free to pass this on to other Amtrak supporters. Please direct letters about Amtrak's annual appropriation to the members of the Appropriations Committee.
Appropriations Committee Members Senate House Senator Stevens (AK) Rep McDade (PA) Cochran (MS) Young (FL) Specter (PA) Regula (OH) Domenici (NM) Lewis (CA) Bond (MO) Porter (IL) Gorton (WA) Rogers (KY) McConnell (KY) Skeen (NM) Burns (MT) Wolf (VA) Shelby (AL) DeLay (TX) Gregg (NH) Kolbe (AZ) Bennett (UT) Packard (CA) Campbell (CO) Callahan (AL) Craig (ID) Walsh (NY) Fairlcoth (NC) Taylor (NC) Hutchison (TX) Hobson (OH) Byrd (WV) Istook (OK) Inouye (HI) Bonilla (TX) Hollings (SC) Knollenberg (MI) Leahy (VT) Miller (FL) Bumpers (AR) Dickey (AR) Lautenberg (NJ) Kingston (GA) Harkin (IA) Parker (MS) Mikulski (MD) Frelinghuysen (NJ) Reid (NV) Wicker (MS) Kohl (WI) Forbes (NY) Murray (WA) Nethercutt (WA) Dorgan (ND) Neumann (WI) Boxer (CA) Cunningham (CA) Tiahart (KS) Wamp (IA) Latham (IA) Northup (KY) Aderholt (AL) Obey (WI) Yates (IL) Stokes (OH) Murtha (PA) Dicks (WA) Sabo (MN) Dixon (CA) Fazio (CA) Hefner (NC) Hoyer (MD) Mollohan (WV) Kaptur (OH) Skaggs (CO) Pelosi (CA) Visclosky (IN) Torres (CA) Lowey (NY) Serrano (NY) DeLauro (CT) Moran (VA) Olver (MA) Pastor (AZ) Meeks (FL) Price (NC) Edwards (TX)
For a state by state listing of all Congressional e-mail addresses go to: http://gemini.berkshire.net/~ifas/activist/
For a list of Senate e-mail addresses go to: http://www.senate.gov/senator/membmail.html
To write to members of the House go to: http://www.house.gov/writerep/
There are also hypertext links to members of the House Appropriations Committee at: http://www.house.gov/appropriations/members.htm
Hypertext links to the Senate Appropriations Committee can be found at: http://www.senate.gov/committee/appropriations.html
CLINTON TO NAME REFORM BOARD APPOINTEES--May 22, 1998. President Clinton announced his intent to appoint Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and his intent to nominate Sylvia De Leon, Linwood Holton, Amy M. Rosen, John Robert Smith, Michael Dukakis, and Tommy G. Thompson as members of the Amtrak Reform Board.
AMTRAK NORTHEAST RIDERSHIP RISES--May 22, 1998. Amtrak ridership in the Northeast continued on the rise in April, growing seven percent over April 1997 and breaking the million mark for the fourth time in the last seven months.
More than 1.03 million riders boarded Amtrak trains in the Northeast, compared to 943,000 in April 1997. Since the start of Amtraks 1998 fiscal year last October, monthly ridership has broken the million mark four times -- in October, December, March and April. Total ridership for October through April was 6,856,376, an increase of 8.5 percent over the first seven months of FY1997.
In addition, more than 90 percent of Amtrak trains in the Northeast arrived on time during April. The 90.2 percent on- time performance marks the fifth straight month that on-time arrivals have exceeded 90 percent.
Amtraks Northeast services account for more than half the railroads total ridership and revenue and include premium Metroliner Service between New York and Washington, NortheastDirect Service linking major cities between New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Tidewater Virginia, Empire Service connecting major cities in New York State and Keystone Service in eastern Pennsylvania.
AMTRAK, NS AND CSX REACH DEAL--May 22, 1998. Norfolk Southern and C-S-X have reached a deal with Amtrak over the use of Conrail tracks in the northeast corridor. The arrangement is expected to push the $10.2-billion Conrail acquisition down the tracks... on the eve of federal hearings into the takeover. The deal reportedly allows mostly overnight use of the Washington-to- Boston tracks by freight rail traffic... allowing commuter rail and Amtrak passenger trains to use the key routes during the day.
AMTRAK SERVICE IN THE WORKS FOR OKLAHOMA--May 22, 1998. U.S. Senator Don Nickles, Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Neal McCaleb and Amtrak President George Warrington have announced the possible return of passenger rail service to to Oklahoma by spring 1999. The announcement comes on the heels of a meeting late last week in which the three officials discussed plans for $23 million secured for Oklahoma passenger rail service through the Tax Relief Act of 1997. Acting Amtrak President George Warrington said Monday that he is committed to reinstating Amtrak service in Oklahoma by next spring. The routes most often discussed are: Oklahoma City through Tulsa to Kansas City; Oklahoma City through Tulsa to St. Louis; Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas; and Fort Worth through Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas, which is north of Wichita. The selection will be a joint decision by Amtrak and Oklahoma officials.
AMTRAK DINING CAR INFO UPDATED--May 10, 1998. Amtrak has chosen Dobbs Food Service to take over the commissary operations.
Meanwhile the Automat Food service concept has begun its path to slow death. Construction of the remaining cars has been postponed indefinitely.
In a related development, Amtrak and its largest Union TCU (Transportation Communications Union), have come to agreement on a labor contract that will carry them through the year 2000. My understanding is that this agreement provides for wage and job protection when outsourcing occurs at the commissaries.
AMTRAK'S RIDERSHIP AND ON-TIME PERFORMANCE REMAIN STRONG - Second Quarter Results Follow Strong First Quarter --April 29, 1998. Amtrak ridership increased nearly six percent and on-time performance systemwide improved to nearly 83 percent for the first three months of the year, continuing positive trends that developed last year.
During those months, Amtrak's second quarter (January-March), more than 4.7 million passengers traveled on Amtrak trains, an increase of 5.8 percent compared to the same period last year. When combining first quarter (October-December) and second quarter results, more than 10 million passengers traveled on Amtrak during the first half of the railroad's fiscal year, representing a 6.4 percent increase compared to the first half of FY 1997. This occurred despite falling gasoline prices that have reduced the cost of driving, which is Amtrak's chief competition in many markets.
Key factors igniting the increase include on-time performance, improved service delivery and grassroots marketing that focused on customer needs of individual markets.
For the first three months of calendar year 1998, Amtrak's systemwide on-time performance rose more than five percent from the same period a year ago to 82.8 percent. When combining the first quarter and second quarter results, Amtrak's on-time performance for the first half of the fiscal year has increased nearly five percent to 80.5 percent.
For the full Amtrak press release and a table of ridership stats see: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk98062.html
SENATE UNANIMOUSLY BACKS FULL FUNDING FOR AMTRAK IN ITS BUDGET RESOLUTION--April 7, 1998. On April 2, the Senate reaffirmed unanimously its commitment to Amtrak, America's intercity passenger railroad. As part of its consideration of the Fiscal Year 1999 Budget Resolution, the Senate passed a Sense of the Senate resolution that stated Congress and the Administration should provide Amtrak with sufficient capital investment funds in accordance with the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997. The Act reauthorized Amtrak operations through 2002 and called for $1.023 billion in federal support for FY99.
A bipartisan group of 18 Senators sponsored the amendment led by Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), William Roth (R-DE), and Joseph Biden (D-DE). It is now part of the Senate's version of the Budget Resolution.
The Budget Resolution is Congress' blueprint for spending in FY99. Because it is non-binding, however, the final amount of spending for the next fiscal year will be decided ultimately by the appropriations committees in Congress.
In addition to the Senators named above, the other co-sponsors were: Jim Jeffords (R-VT), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Carol Mosely-Braun (D-IL), John Kerry (D-MA), John Chafee (R-RI), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Max Baucus (D-MT), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).
I urge you to contact those Senators who represent you and thank them for their support of Amtrak. For Senate e-mail addresses go to: http://www.senate.gov/senator/membmail.html
STB RULING ON BOSTON TO PORTLAND, MAINE ROUTE DUE IN MAY--March 26, 1998. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) will rule in May on the dispute between Amtrak and Guilford Transportation Industries (GTI) regarding the 111 mile extension of track between Boston and Portland, Maine. The eight year dispute between the two railroads involves liability issues.
Maine plans to begin ordering the railroad ties needed to make 78 miles of freight train tracks suitable for passenger trains. Maine has $38 million in federal grants that it plans to use to improve Guilford's tracks so that Amtrak can run four round trips daily between Boston and Portland. The article pointed out that the decision by the STB also could scuttle the project, if the terms of the deal prove too costly for Amtrak and the state.
AMTRAK REFORM COUNCIL APPOINTEES NAMED--UPDATED - March 24, 1998. Nine of the eleven members of the newly formed Amtrak Reform Council have been appointed. The latest appointees are Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, Bruce Chapman of Washington (President of the Discovery Institute, a conservative Seattle-based think tank), and Christopher Gleason of Pennsylvania (a member of Bud Shuster's Blue Ribbon Panel that recommended breaking up Amtrak). All were named by House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Previously, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) appointed Paul Weyrich, a former Amtrak board member (1987-1993), Gil Carmichael, former Federal Railroad Administrator (1898-93), and Joseph Vranich. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) named former Senate staffer Don Sweitzer, a former staffer for Senator Metzenbaum and an ally of rail labor. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-IN) named S. Lee Kling, a banker, former Missouri DOT commissioner and former Amtrak board member (1979-1981).
The most controversial of these appointments has been that of Joseph Vranich, author of the book "Derailed: What Went Wrong and What to Do About America's Passenger Trains." Vranich was nominated by Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) at the urging of Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), one of Amtrak's most outspoken critics. Vranich's book calls for Amtrak's liquidation and it is believed that Vranich may have a preset agenda to destroy Amtrak although, in a press statement this week, he said that he would have an "open mind."
Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater serves ex-officio and President Clinton will name two more nominees.
The Council was created by the Amtrak reauthorization bill approved by Congress this past fall. The Council is empowered to evaluate Amtrak's financial picture and possibly recommend liquidation if it sees fit.
SHELBY TO HOLD AMTRAK PRIVATIZATION HEARINGS--March 20, 1998. Friends of Amtrak has learned that Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will be holding a hearing next week on alternatives to Amtrak. One member of the panel is Robert Poole, founder and president of the Reason Foundation, a group devoted to the privatization of public transportation. Poole advised the White House Office of Policy Development on privatization during the Reagan years, and testified before the President's Commission on Privatization in 1987. During the Bush administration, he worked with the Vice-President's Competitiveness Council and the White House Counsel to help develop an executive order on infrastructure privatization. The Reason Foundation has provided much exposure to Vranich's book which calls for the liquidation of Amtrak.
SENATE PASSES ISTEA RENEWAL - AMTRAK FLEXIBILITY INCLUDED!-- March 16, 1998. The U. S. Senate has passed a bill (S. 1173) extending the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) for another six years. The bill authorizes $214 billion and, for the first time, gives states the flexibility to divert highway funds for Amtrak intercity passenger rail service, while increasing highway funding by 40%. The House is expected to take up its own version of the bill by the end of March.
Please call your legislator in the House of Representatives and urge him/her to support the Senate language giving states the flexibility to use ISTEA funds for Amtrak.
To find the e-mail address for your representative go to:
You can also check an unofficial listing at:
ISTEA UPDATE--May 22, 1998. The ISTEA conference concluded and the final version was not good news for Amtrak. State flexibility to spend some federal transportation funds on intercity passenger rail capital items was eliminated from the Senate version. This means the loss of what could have been a key tool in passenger train expansion in the next few years. Spearheading the opposition to Amtrak was Congressman Bud Shuster (R-PA), the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The full Senate is expected to vote on a Budget Resolution Monday. The Amtrak numbers are $594 million a year through 2002, which is good. What may be a problem as early as Monday (or more likely Tuesday) is an amendment by Phil Gramm (R-TX) to increase highway spending at the expense of Amtrak and other discretionary (non-trust fund) programs. The amendment is still being written, but it would eliminate or greatly cut Amtrak funding. Gramm is looking for a Democratic co-sponsor -- if he finds one, the chances of passing his amendment are good.
Please ask your senators to work against -- and vote against -- any Gramm amendment that increases highway spending at Amtrak's expense. You can find information on how to e-mail them at http://www.senate.gov/senator/membmail.html.
AMTRAK CONTINUES TO PURSUE ENERGY PLAN, SEEK SAVINGS FOR NORTHEAST RAIL RIDERS--April 22, 1998 Amtrak today reiterated that it will continue pursuing access to low cost electricity and renewed its commitment to share the resulting millions of dollars in savings with train riders throughout the Northeast.
In a decision announced Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied Enron Power Marketing, Inc. of Houston, access to the mid-Atlantic electricity transmission system in order to supply low cost power to run Amtrak and commuter trains on the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak signed a contract with Enron in April 1997 to supply electricity at savings of up to 50 percent, but the savings have been hamstrung by the refusal of the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland Interconnection (PJM) &endash; which operates the transmission system for eight utilities -- to allow Enron access to its grid.
For more info see the Amtrak press release at: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk98064.html
BOSTON TO PORTLAND, ME UPDATE -- April 10, 1998. Amtrak service between Maine and Boston could be restored before the end of the century, with trains possibly running as far north as Brunswick, vows Maine U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe. A report in today's Boston Globe confirms that Maine is optimistically awaiting a determination by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board on what guidelines Amtrak must follow to use the tracks, which are owned by Guilford Transportation Services. The decision by the STB is due next month. Snowe told a city hall press conference in Portland that "the 'Little Engine That Could' is now the train that is coming," adding that she plans to ride the train to Portland, and Freeport, and then on up to Brunswick." Snowe presented a check from the federal government for $11.6 million to Maine Transportation Commissioner John Melrose. Maine is one of six states with no Amtrak service that are eligible for mass transit funding under the Taxpayer Relief Act.
NEW YORK RIDERSHIP SURGE CONTINUES, ON-TIME PERFORMANCE HITS 95% --April 1, 1998. Amtrak's ridership surge in New York state continued for the 15th consecutive month during February as patronage grew nearly eight percent and 95 percent of Empire Service trains arrived on time. The demand for Empire Service -- one of the fastest growing Amtrak corridors in the nation -- will result in more trains being added to the schedule starting April 5.
In addition, Amtrak expects by mid-April to complete the replacement of its entire fleet of diesel locomotives used in Empire Service with 18 new state-of-the-art locomotives. Worth more than $75 million, the 3,200- horsepower "Genesis II" locomotives are specifically designed for Empire Service because of their ability to switch from diesel to electric power when operating within New York City.
For the full Amtrak press release go to http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk98048.html
British Privatization of Rail--A Costly Failing Experiment--March 24, 1998. The monthly newsletter of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) has some excerpts from published reports indicating that the British experiment to privatize rail has been a costly failure. NARP quotes the BBC News Bulletin reporting rising fares, increased compensation costs to disgruntled passengers, increased costs, and declining reliablility and punctuality. "For the privatised railway, the honeymoon is very close to being over" said John Welsby, Chairman of the British Railways Board. Welsby said that "privatisation has not resulted in a drop in government cash being injected into the industry..."
NORTH CAROLINA RIDERSHIP UP--March 24, 1998. The state-supported rail passenger services operated by Amtrak in North Carolina have much-improved on-time performance and ridership through February. These trains, the Raleigh- Charlotte, N.C., Piedmont and the New York-Charlotte Carolinian, continue to have some of the highest customer satisfaction scores in the Amtrak system.
From Oct. 1997 through Feb. 1998, the on-time performance for the Piedmont was up 48.6 percent over the same period last year. The on-time performance for the Carolinian was up 22 percent over this same period last year.
The Piedmont uses rail passenger equipment owned by the State of North Carolina and both the Piedmont and the Carolinian are operated by Amtrak under a contract with the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
AMTRAK RIDERSHIP GROWING IN ILLINOIS--March 24, 1998. Amtrak ridership is growing at a rapid pace on trains serving Chicago and downstate Illinois. On-time performance on these routes has also significantly improved. Year-to-date ridership increases range from 12 to 18 percent and February on-time performance for the three routes was 95.9 percent, with only eight late trains out of 193 operated under a contract between Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).
Amtrak and IDOT are in the first year of a fixed-fee, three-year agreement that sets the state's financial contribution and provides further incentive for Amtrak to improve the financial performance of the service. The contract also features on-time performance incentives and penalties.
Amtrak recently announced a plan to spend $2.4 million to improve the rail passenger cars used in the Illinois service, including upgrading the interior decor, replacing seating and floor surfaces, modifications to car entrances and exterior improvements to rail passenger equipment. This investment is being made to further improve customer satisfaction and the overall financial performance of the service.
NEW PENN STATION GETS GREEN LIGHT--March 7, 1998. An agreement to convert the landmark Farley General Post Office Building in New York City to a new Penn Station was announced this week. Work on the renovations could start this summer. In the next few months the Postal Service will begin vacating about half the ground floor of this historic 84 year old structure to make way for a new concourse leading to Amtrak platforms directly below. Within five years more of the space is expected to be vacated for restaurants, shops and other small facilities serving Amtrak passengers.
The old historic Pennsylvania station was leveled 35 years ago and the new complex which includes Madison Square Garden is highly congested. The current Penn Station, Amtrak's busiest, is now shared by the Long Island RR and New Jersey Transit.
The agreement was announced by the White House which facilitated the departure by the U.S. Postal Service. The Clinton White House released the following statement: "Last October, at the request of Senator Moynihan, the White House began meetings with the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Postal Service, the General Services Administration, Amtrak, the Pennsylvania Station Redevelopment Corporation, and local officials to find a way to designate the James Farley Post Office Building in New York City as the new home for Penn Station. Today, I am happy to announce that an accord has been reached on Penn Station and plans to restore the James Farley Post Office Building are now underway. I applaud Senator Moynihan's leadership and those involved in creating this magnificent opportunity."
AMTRAK APPROVES IMPROVEMENTS TO RAIL PASSENGER FLEET --March 2, 1998. Amtrak has approved $26.6 million to improve the passenger cars used in both long and short-distance service. Under the plan, the bi-level Superliner cars used on long-distance services and the single-level Horizon cars used on short and medium distance services will be overhauled more frequently. An extensive upgrade program will be carried out in order to provide a customer service level more comparable to newer cars, including new seats, other fabrics and interior decor.
Also, 31 passenger cars will be restored to service and overhauled over the next 13 months in order to provide additional capacity on existing and future trains. Most of the work will be done by Amtrak craftspeople at the Beech Grove (Ind.) Heavy Maintenance Facility near Indianapolis.
For the full Amtrak press release go to:
ST. LOUIS - KANSAS CITY AMTRAK SERVICE THREATENED--March 2, 1998. Amtrak service in Missouri from St. Louis-Kansas City is being threatened by possible state budget cuts. Recently the Missouri House Appropriations Committee voted to cut the Governor's budget request for this service. The MISSOURI-KANSAS Rail Passenger Coalition (MOKSRail) has issued a statement explaining the situation. You may read the full text of the statement at:
Any passenger rail advocates who use the Missouri service are urged to read the statement and contact the Missouri legislature. More specific info can be found on the MOKSRail website.
ISTEA DEBATE BEGINS IN SENATE--March 1, 1998. The Senate has begun debate on S. 1173, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. It is important that states be given the "flexibility" to spend federal ISTEA funds on intercity passenger rail. Please write to your Senators and urge them to include language giving states this flexibility.
To find the e-mail address of your U.S. Senator CLICK HERE
It is expected that several anti-environmental amendments will be offered to the ISTEA bill.
BOSTON TO PORTLAND STALLED AT STB--February 25, 1998. The matter of the Boston to Portland, ME Amtrak route is still on the back burner. Amtrak and Guilford Transportation, which owns the track, have been in a dispute around the issue of liability for some time. The dispute has been submitted to the Surface Transportation Board and while a decision was expected last fall none has been made. Seems as if the STB hasn't been able to get its act together on this one.
AMTRAK CANCELS SOME CALIFORNIA SERVICE DUE TO HEAVY RAINS--
February 25, 1998. Amtrak has canceled all San Diegan rail service
north of Los Angeles through at least March 2 due to heavy rains and
severe weather resulting in damage to a railroad bridge near the
Ventura, Calif. station. Trains will continue to operate between San
Diego and Los Angeles. Amtrak has canceled its Los Angeles-Seattle
Coast Starlight through at least Tuesday. Service is scheduled to
resume on Wednesday, Feb. 25, with alternate train and motorcoach
connections between Los Angeles and Oakland. All other Amtrak serving
California, Oregon and Washington are presently operating although
passengers may experience delays ranging from 10 to 60 minutes due to
weather-related speed restrictions.
For the full Amtrak press release go to: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/adv980224.html
AMTRAK AUTO TRAIN TERMINAL IN LORTON, VA., TO BE EXPANDED, IMPROVED--February 25, 1998. Amtrak has approved $8 million to complete a $19.5 million plan to reconstruct the Lorton, Va., terminal used by the Amtrak Auto Train, the overnight service that carries passengers and their vehicles to and from the Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla., areas.
The current Lorton facilities are too small as currently configured to efficiently accommodate the number of passengers and automobiles that travel on the Auto Train. In the previous fiscal year (Oct. 1996-Sept. 1997), more than 240,000 passengers used the Auto Train, plus more than 117,000 of their cars, vans and motorcycles, frequently resulting in the worlds longest passenger train at more than 50 cars.
When the two-year project is complete, the automobile loading and unloading process will be streamlined -- achieving a vehicle unloading time of one hour or less. Currently, it can take up to two hours to unload vehicles from the train. The plan also includes the construction of a platform extension that allows the passenger section of the train to remain intact for boarding, rather than the current operation that requires that the train be separated into two sections and loaded separately. Rail operations will be greatly improved by reducing the time required to assemble the train and allowing more reliable and on- time departures.
For the full Amtrak press release go to:
AMTRAK OKAYS SPENDING ON ROUTE THROUGH MICHIGAN AND
INDIANA--February 25, 1998. Amtrak has approved more than $3
million to improve the reliability of passenger train service and
facilitate higher speed operations on the Amtrak-owned route through
northern Indiana and western Michigan. Amtrak service between Chicago
and Detroit/Pontiac and between Chicago and Toronto operates over the
Porter, Ind.,-Kalamazoo, Mich., route.
For the full Amtrak press release go to: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk9822.html
AMTRAK COMMITS $9 MILLION IN CAPITAL RESOURCES TO BENEFIT LOS ANGELES TO LAS VEGAS RAIL CORRIDOR--February 20, 1998. LAS VEGAS -- As part of Amtraks Fiscal Year 1998 (FY98) $360 million capital spending plan, $9 million will be invested in railroad track improvements and facility construction to prepare for the initiation of new daily Los Angeles-Las Vegas train service which could occur as early as December 1998.
"This is a critical step in reintroducing passenger train service between Southern California and Las Vegas," said Amtrak West President Gil Mallery. "I hope the $9 million investment sends a strong message about Amtraks commitment to the restoration of rail service in this market," said Mallery. "With the support of gaming properties, and officials from Las Vegas and Nevada, Amtrak is ready to move this project forward."
Mallery commended the support of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and his staff over the past year to help Amtrak receive adequate capital funding at the Federal level and generate local interest in the train service.
AMTRAK INVESTS $100 MILLION IN NEW CALIFORNIA RAIL EQUIPMENT New Trains to Serve Southern California and Central Coast in 2000--February 20, 1998. LOS ANGELES -- Amtrak has announced a $100 million investment to purchase new passenger trains for the San Diegan corridor, Amtrak's second busiest, serving more than 1.6 million passengers annually, as part of a larger program to modernize the Amtrak system and improve operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. This acquisition represents the single largest investment Amtrak has ever made in California.
A contract to manufacture eight new five-car train sets was awarded to GEC Alsthom Transportation Inc. (GATI). The new trains will begin servicing the San Diegans in early 2000, replacing multiple types of single-level Amtrak equipment as much as 30 years old. The new dual- level train sets will include one Custom Class Car, one Coach/Café Car, two Coach Cars, and one Coach/Baggage/Cab Car for a combined total of 425 seats.
The equipment acquisition is made possible by the enactment of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 which provides Amtrak $2.2 billion in capital investment funds.
AMTRAK RIDERSHIP ON A ROLL IN VIRGINIA--February 20, 1998. PHILADELPHIA -- Spurred by aggressive marketing and high-quality service, Amtrak ridership in Virginia has soared over the last year. Ridership increased by 11% in the first quarter of Amtraks fiscal year (October to January). Customers took 123,362 trips in the winter of 1997, compared to 111,110 trips the year before. And buoyed by expanded premium services such as sleeper cars and Custom Class, revenue increases far outpaced ridership gains. Amtrak posted a 23% increase in ticket revenues in Virginia markets.
Amtrak Announces High-Yield Capital Investment Program; Rail Service Throughout the Country to Benefit--February 12, 1998 Today, Amtrak announced the first installment, totaling $360 million, of a capital investment program that will address the railroad's critical capital backlog, provide for much needed annual capital needs, and build Amtrak's long-term operating strength.
The investment program is made possible by enactment of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 which provides Amtrak with $2.2 billion in capital investment funds. The investment of these resources is predicated on strategic investment in high rate of return projects that will yield long-term operating improvements and reduce the railroad's reliance on federal operating support. The $360 million represents only the first 16 percent of the total Taxpayer Relief Act fund and is made up of projects that must be initiated swiftly for Amtrak to begin to see improvements to its bottom line.
Amtrak has estimated that its overall federal capital needs total more than $4 billion over the next five years. "The $2.2 billion provided last year is a significant first step, but the railroad's future is dependent on receiving the remainder of the funds each year through the annual appropriations process," said Amtrak's Acting President and Chief Executive Officer, George D. Warrington. "Amtrak is pleased that the President's budget, submitted to Congress on February 2, recommends a steady capital funding stream beyond the next two years."
NARP PRESS RELEASE - CLINTON BUDGET - BROKEN COMMITMENTS--February 5, 1998. President Clinton's budget would fund new Amtrak capital investment ($621 million) out of the Highway Trust Fund, and would eliminate Amtrak operating grants. Congress repeatedly has rejected the first of these ideas; there is no indication this year will be any different. Adoption of the second idea would force Amtrak to divert much of its $2 billion Taxpayer Relief Act (TRA) capital funding away from high-rate-of-return investments that would reduce Amtrak's reliance on operating grants.
With these proposals, and a roughly 40% reduction in Amtrak outlays (cash actually spent in a year), President Clinton breaks his previously stated commitment "to providing the American people with high - quality, reliable rail service. I remain committed to Amtrak and to improving intercity rail service" (letter to NARP, January 15, 1997). He also breaks faith with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes agreement recently brokered by Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater. If this budget stands, Amtrak under that agreement could void wage increases not yet paid, and face new strike threats.
For the full press release go to: http://www.worldweb.net/~narp/rel.html
CLINTON BUDGET--AMTRAK CAPITAL FUNDING SHOULD PAY FOR MAINTENANCE-- FEBRUARY 2, 1998. The Clinton administration has released its FY 99 budget proposal and so far it is not good news for Amtrak. It asks Amtrak to use some of the money earmarked for capital improvements for maintenance. This would reduce the funding available to purchase new rolling stock and other equipment that was released in November following approval of the reauthorization bill. The budget further calls upon states, cities and private interests to supplement federal funding of Amtrak saying that this is not the responsibility of the federal government alone.
AMTRAK CITY OF NEW ORLEANS ADOPTS MARDI GRAS PARTY THEME IN FEBRUARY NEW ORLEANS, January 31, 1998 -- The Amtrak City of New Orleans will be transformed into a series of Mardi Gras party trains, from Feb. 18-24, 1998, operating with expanded capacity and offering a variety of special on-board features.
Among the special amenities will be complete dinners and lunches of Cajun cuisine, including red beans and rice, gumbo and jambalaya. Additional serving areas in the lounge car will be opened to improve customer service.
New Orleans special brand of jazz will be offered by brass bands between Greenwood, Miss., and the Crescent City. Dance and music contests will be offered on-board, with Mardi Gras coconuts, caps, shirts, beads and other items as prizes. The trains will be decorated to reflect the festive Mardi Gras spirit.
In Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans, Mardi Gras-bound passengers will be greeted by costumed Amtrak employees who will escort them to and from their accommodations.
The full press release from Amtrak can be found at: http://www.amtrak.com:80/amtrak/news/press/atk98008.html
PACIFIC CLASS SERVICE STARTS ON AMTRAK WEST--January 26, 1998. I'm told that beginning in February, Amtrak West will begin a new service on the San Diegans. It's called "Pacific Club Service". This will replace the existing "Custom Class" service. It will differ from the previous service in that it will be a true "first class" service. Improvements include, a train attendant on every San Diegan in the Pacific Club Car, which will be a new "Concept 2000" coach (Amfleet), placed in the same position in the consist that the current Custom Class car occupies. A new menu will be offered and additional amenities include, pillows and seat-side service, utilizing rolling "trollies", much like the ones used by cabin attendants on the airlines. The Pacific Class Service will be offered by reservation only, however, upgrades will be offered on a space available basis. Plans are underway to create a "first class" lounge area in the end of the dinette car closest to the Pacific Club coach. Also, very soon, two of "The Great Domes" will be added to the San Diegans. The full-length dome cars were originally built for The Empire Builder in the mid-fifties. Plans are to dedicate these cars to the Central Coast San Diegans which run between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.
AMTRAK INTERCITY PROPOSES DINING CAR SERVICES REDUCTIONS-- December 31, 1997. UPDATED January 26, 1998.
In what could be a most disturbing development, Friends of Amtrak has learned that Amtrak's Intercity Business Unit is in the process of conducting a test of possible food service "changes" (read reductions) to partially reduce a $74.2 million shortfall. The goal in FY '98 is to reduce this by $6.2 million. Amtrak Intercity, in a memo to employees, has identified a five point action program plus a review of the current pricing structure which would result in price increases.
The five point action program includes:
1. Reducing inventory in the commissary. 2. Use of different products in the diner to reduce preparation work. 3. Substituting plastic ware for china. 4. Developing more consistent menus among the long distance trains, and 5. Testing non-traditional methods of serving in the dining car.
This five point program is being tested on the California Zephyr. However, the memo states that the fifth point, the non-traditional approach, is now being tested on the Silver Service trains (to Florida) where the food is served in "traditional family style bowls" which are placed on the table and the "customer serves themselves." Reports that I have indicate that most food is pre-prepared and pre-cooked, coming in a tray meal format and that only one item or so will be made on train.
The second action, which Amtrak Intercity hopes will have the greatest impact, would use "value added products" such as pre-cut vegetables, some fruits, individual containers of sour cream and cheese and pre-prepared chicken and salad mix containing red cabbage, carrots, etc...
The third point, substituting plastic for china, will also result in staffing reductions and "adjustments" to the menu for the test period of 45-60 days which began on October 26. Vinyl tablecloths are being used for all meals.
On point #4 - developing more consistent menus, the memo states that "by mid-January 1998, Amtrak intercity trains will have more consistent menus. Each menu will contain the same number of items per meal...for example, five dinners, four lunches, etc. There will be standard core items, steak (we may change from strip to filet), chicken, etc. Each train will have a 'signature' item which is unique to that train..." which will be the decision of the product line.
The October 22, memo from Al Edelston, Vice President of Customer Service for Amtrak Intercity, notes that a survey would be conducted to assess customer satisfaction and that employee input would be sought. This information will be presented to the Amtrak Board of Directors in December or January.
I've already heard that a 2% increase will be implemented effective January 1, 1998.
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Amtrak and VIA Now Selling New North America Rail Pass - Pass Offers 30-Day Unlimited Travel Throughout the U.S. and Canada-- WASHINGTON and MONTREAL, Jan. 26, 1998. Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada's new North America Rail Pass goes on sale Jan. 27, the first pass designed for travel in both the United States and Canada for one low price. The 30-day pass with unlimited stopovers allows travel along 27,000 miles of scenic railways in the U.S. and Canada, with more than 900 destinations from which to choose. Connecting terminals are in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
"At long last, United States and Canadian residents can buy a pass to see their own continent comparable to the Eurail passes they have enjoyed abroad," said Amtrak president George Warrington.
The introductory off-peak fare for the new North America Rail Pass is $450 USD and $625 CND (Jan. 27-May 31, 1998). Fare during peak season (June 1-Oct. 15) will be $645 USD and $895 CND. Fares apply to all customers ages two and over. No other discounts will apply.
Amtrak Reaps Biggest Ridership Increase in 14 Years During First Quarter FY 1998--January 23, 1998. Amtrak ridership jumped nearly seven percent October through December 1997, the largest quarterly increase in 14 years. The 6.8 percent leap represents 5.3 million passengers for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 1998 (FY 1998), versus 4.96 million during the same period the previous year. Passenger revenue for the quarter increased 3.4 percent, totaling $235 million, versus $227 million for the same period in 1997.
Improved Amtrak ridership and revenue are the result of actions taken under the company's strategic business plan, which include restoring daily service to several routes having the greatest growth potential, operating newer equipment which provides more reliable service, better marketing practices and increased state support for key state-funded routes.
CLINTON MAY PROPOSE ELIMINATION OF AMTRAK OPERATING SUBSIDIES - UTU and NORTHEAST SENATORS FIRE AT CLINTON - WHITE SAYS NOT SO! --January 17, 1998. A report in the New York Times this week says that six U.S. Senators are accusing President Clinton of backtracking on his earlier pledges of support for Amtrak. The six Senators, Republicans and Democrats from the northeast, sent an angry letter to the White House denouncing the President's proposed budget that would reportedly cut off all federal operating subsidies for Amtrak. The six Senators include Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), Joseph Biden (D-DE), William Roth (R-DE) and John Chafee (R-RI). In the letter the Senators said that the Clinton proposal, if enacted, would leave Amtrak "woefully short of money and unable to continue operating as planned" and would undermine efforts "to keep Amtrak from going bankrupt." Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said eliminating operating subsidies would lead to widespread layoffs and cutbacks in service.
However, White House press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters, "Everything that I've been led to believe indicates there will be substantial operating subsidies and substantial capital investments for Amtrak in the budget the president will propose in February."
In a related development, the following is a press statement from UTU (United Transportation Union) National Legislative Director, J. M. Brunkenhoefer:
"Well, President Clinton's advisors have rolled out the "blue smoke and mirrors" again. Some Republicans want to kill Amtrak outright and now some Presidential advisors want to play games with the numbers so that Amtrak will starve to death for lack of operating money. Either way, Amtrak would die. Thousands of our members' jobs would be lost and railroad retirement would be threatened. Why? Because some at the White House want to play theoretical games. They want to play a flim flam shell game that moves the numbers around so that the numbers look good on paper but there is no money.
"Call John Podesta, Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House, (202) 456-1414. If you can't reach him, call Karen Tremontano at the same number. Tell them to keep their commitments to Amtrak. It is time for our members to stop worrying about their jobs. It is time for our retirees to stop worrying about their pensions. It is time to stop worrying the public about the continuation of Amtrak service. I think it is horrible, after what we all went through last year in Congress, to see a few people in the White House try to break the deal. Call the White House. Tell them to keep their word." Let the White House know how you feel
CALL (202) 456-1414
SAVE AMTRAK !
WARRINGTON NAMED AMTRAK PRESIDENT--January 11, 1998. Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that George D. Warrington, President of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor unit, and acting Amtrak CEO since the resignation by Tom Downs one month ago, has formally assumed the Presidency of Amtrak. According to the story by Inquirer Staff Writer Henry J. Holcomb, Warrington "hopes he won't be in the job for long" and "says he truly doesn't want his boss' job." His ambition is to get back to his job as Amtrak's president of the Northeast Corridor.
NEW TEXAS EAGLE--January 8, 1998-- Due to exceptionally heavy advance bookings which resulted in sold out conditions, Amtrak will be adding an additional sleeping car to the inaugural trip of the TEXAS EAGLE - California Service, leaving Chicago on Friday evening February 6.
It is expected that this car will also sell out quickly. Those desiring to travel on all or part of the Eagle inaugural should make reservations promptly. This additional car should appear in the train inventory (and be available for reservations) within the next 24 hours. Coach space is open also.
Various members of Amtrak's intercity management have expressed interest in participating in this event. Elected officials along the route will also participate, either by riding or at trackside ceremonies. Inaugural festivities for those on board the train will include musicians and other entertainment.
The operation of this train southbound through Arkansas and Texas on Saturday February 7, and the operation of the regular Texas Eagle northbound on Sunday February 8, offers an excellent opportunity for a unique train ride.
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