House members' letter asks pointed questions of Amtrak CEO Anderson

RELATED TOPICS: PASSENGER | AMTRAK | LEGISLATION
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WASHINGTON — Ninety-one members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter to Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson demanding answers to a long list of concerns “regarding changes that Amtrak has recently implemented and is reportedly considering making to its operations” posed by their constituents.

The 11-page letter — slightly more than three pages of observations and questions, with the rest the signatures of House members — follows language in the recently passed fiscal 2019 budget that places conditions on how the company’s $1.94 billion annual appropriation is spent. It offers the strongest signal yet that Amtrak management efforts to unilaterally alter service will attract oversight from the lawmakers who fund the passenger carrier.

A total of 88 Democrats and three Republicans signed onto the letter, led by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.). The signees hail (in order of representation) from California (19), New York (9), New Jersey (9), Pennsylvania (6), Illinois (5), Texas (4), plus 23 other states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Republicans represent districts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Alaska.

Though members come from all parts of the country and even areas not served by Amtrak, what’s particularly striking about the distribution is the preponderance of Northeast and California lawmakers and the absence of representatives from many districts that could be directly impacted by any national network retrenchment.

The letter seeks reaffirmation from Anderson that Amtrak remains “committed to meeting its statutory responsibility of providing a national intercity passenger rail network that includes state-supported and long-distance routes in addition to the (Northeast Corridor).” More specifically, the 13 questions contained within eight bullet points cover:

— Station staffing

— Call-center service changes

— Dining and beverage service on the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited, and how the recent request for information on outsourcing food service will be evaluated

— Private car carriage and charges

— Anticipated changes to maintenance facilities

The lawmakers expect Anderson’s answers by March 8. In a statement to Trains News Wire, Amtrak confirms, “We have received the letter and Amtrak will respond in a timely manner.”

The full letter is available here.

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