Amtrak CEO: Rail service will suffer under 2008 budget

Amtrak would be forced to make drastic cuts in service if it had to live with the funding the White House proposed for fiscal 2008, Alexander Kummant, president and CEO of the rail passenger service, testified Wednesday.

"It would be very difficult to maintain an operation," he told the House Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Amtrak has asked for $1.53 billion for fiscal 2008, while the administration proposed to provide $800 million for the company, plus a $100 million matching program that would go to states for capital improvements.

"We'll have to see what happens," Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Olver, D-Mass., told reporters after the meeting, adding that in recent years, Congress has appropriated much more than the president has proposed.

During the hearing, Olver told his panel that the Bush administration's "unrealistic budget requests year after year -- and unworkable and potentially dangerous insistence on separating rail operations and infrastructure -- have made our efforts to improve intercity passenger rail all the more difficult."

Another witness, Federal Rail Administrator Joseph Boardman, said the White House continues to distinguish between intercity passenger rail service, which it supports, and Amtrak, the service provider which has shortcomings and needs an overhaul.

Working to shift capital developments to the states, Boardman said the administration has proposed the $100 million grant program. Of the $800 million in direct subsidies to states, $300 million would go for operating expenses, a category of aid the administration eventually wants eliminated. In contrast, Amtrak asked that $485 million of its request go for operating expenses.

Just to keep Amtrak's most profitable trains that operate on the Northeast Corridor in good working order, Kummant testified it takes from $350 to $400 million a year in maintenance. Pressed by Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va.., what he would do with Amtrak if he were running it as a private corporation, Kummant reminded him that it is a company and said passenger rail "will never make money."

Olver and other members pressed Boardman on plans for dealing with the number of rail accidents involving Amtrak. Boardman pledged to "get a handle on what is going on," and argued that budget reductions would not result in fewer inspectors. Kummant added that safety is his number one priority.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.