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Amtrak asks Congress for less money after losing less than usual last year

Mar 27, 2013 8:30 am

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Most companies don’t boast an annual loss, but Amtrak’s only known losses since its inception. That creates controversy every year for the taxpayer-supported national rail system.

— Samantha Shankman

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SP8254  / Flickr

One of Amtrak's heritage locomotives shares the tracks with Capitol Corridor train 749, waiting to depart Sacramento. SP8254 / Flickr


Amtrak, the U.S. intercity passenger railroad supported by taxpayers, today will ask Congress for 16 percent less in operating subsidies for next year after recording its smallest annual loss in 38 years.

Amtrak will seek $373 million in operating support, compared with the $443 million it’s getting this year. It didn’t specify how much it will seek for capital improvements. The Washington-based railroad will submit to Congress today its request for its 2014 fiscal year budget, said Steve Kulm, a spokesman.

After automatic budget cuts, Amtrak is getting $1.3 billion in taxpayer money for fiscal 2013, with $905 million of that going to capital costs and debt service, Kulm said. That’s less than the $1.4 billion the railroad received the previous year.

“The highest imperative of passenger rail legislation should be to provide dedicated, multi-year operating and capital funding to support existing intercity passenger rail services and assets, and the development of new ones,” Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said in a statement.

The Washington-based railroad said Jan. 10 that its loss for the year ended Sept. 30 fell to $361 million, the lowest since 1975, from $1.34 billion in the previous 12 months.

The railroad, created in 1971 to take over money-losing passenger operations from freight carriers, has never made an annual profit and its subsidies have been criticized by some congressional Republicans.

Amtrak is seeking legislation that would help it pay for expanding its Acela fleet of trains serving the U.S. Northeast and replace the 20 existing Acelas. It also plans to upgrade its wireless Internet service, or Wi-Fi, to faster 4G technology on its trains.

The presentation given by Joseph Boardman, President and CEO of Amtrak, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 5, 2013 is included below:

Download (PDF, 884KB)

Editors: Bernard Kohn and Elizabeth Wasserman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net.

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