AMTRAK cash losses $21 million greater this year than expected, Congress told

Wednesday, July 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Amtrak's cash losses so far this year are far greater than expected, a Transportation Department official told Congress Wednesday.

At a hearing of the House Transportation subcommittee on railroads, Kenneth Mead, the Transportation Department inspector general, said Amtrak's cash losses in the first eight months of fiscal 2001 were $21 million more than projected.

The passenger rail service has until December 2002 to wean itself from government operating subsidies.

Amtrak's operating loss of $944 million last year was the largest in its history.

Amtrak President George Warrington in a written statement said that, despite a 10 percent increase in ticket revenues, Amtrak is not meeting its business forecast this year. He said the railroad is working on scores of internal cost-management efforts but did not detail potential cuts in service or work force.

Warrington urged Congress to pass the high-speed corridor funding bill, saying rail travel has been underfunded for decades.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said the national passenger railroad is on life support and near death. He said Congress should begin liquidating and restructuring Amtrak now.

Mica also opposed legislation that would help Amtrak raise $12 billion over 10 years to develop new high-speed rail corridors around the country. ``Congress cannot continue to put good money after bad,'' he said.

Gilbert Carmichael, chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council, presented that panel's plan for restructuring intercity passenger rail.

The council wants to divide Amtrak's responsibilities among a profit-focused company responsible for train operations, a separate government-owned corporation to oversee assets such as tracks and stations and a consolidated government oversight agency.