(July 30) WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush has unveiled his plan for the future of Amtrak. The plan was sent in a bill to congress on July 28.
The six-year plan, if passed, would essentially break up the railroad company and force states to pay more of the costs for keeping the trains running.
Under the restructuring, Amtrak would become three companies:
- A private passenger rail company that would run trains under contract to states.
- A company that operates the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.
- A government corporation that would retain the right to use freight rail tracks and the Amtrak name.
The name could also be contracted out by states that want to continue using it on the pas-senger rail system they sponsor.
In addition, the plan calls for states to work together to run the passenger railroads, as well as submit proposals for investment and operations of the railroads to the U.S. Department of Transportation. States will eventually be allowed to choose private companies that would bid for the contract to run the railroad in that state.
The federal government would cease paying for operating costs, but would continue to pay half of the costs to maintain the railroad infrastructure.
Amtrak, meanwhile, has outlined its own plan, with president David Gunn calling for the government to fund Amtrak with $2 billion a year through 2008.
Both Amtrak and Norfolk, Va.-based ExpressTrak LLC — which has a contract to move re-frigerated cargo in cars attached to the back of Amtrak trains through 2014 — have criticized the administration's plan, labeling it unrealistic.
Meanwhile Amtrak and ExpressTrak are still fighting a legal battle between themselves. Gunn is trying to rid Amtrak of its express business, including its dry and refrigerated freight.
ExpressTrak has taken the matter to court in an effort to hold Amtrak to the remaining years on its contract. ExpressTrak has obtained a permanent injunction that will keep ExpressTrak running until the matter is solved by the court.