Hotline #852 - November 18, 1994

Amtrak may be assigned to a different authorizing committee in the House. Republican leaders want to shift rail from Energy and Commerce to Public Works, which would be renamed the Committee on Public Infrastructure. This could help Amtrak get into the next ISTEA. But the new chairman, Bud Shuster (R.-Pa.), voted for the Hefley amendment this year. Moving Amtrak would also cut the influence of current Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D.-Mich.), who was seen as Amtrak's best friend going into the 1996 contract talks with the freight railroads.

The competition for new Energy and Commerce chairman seems to be tipping towards Thomas Bliley (R.-Va.), who has a good Amtrak voting record. The House Appropriations chairmanship has gone to Bob Livingston (R.-La.), who has a poor voting record. It looks like Al D'Amato (R.-N.Y.) will chair the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. Mark Hatfield (R.-Ore.) will chair the full committee.

The Republican staff of the House Budget Committee is circulating a list of possible program cuts, including saving that $2.8 billion over five years by reducing the Amtrak operating grant and Northeast Corridor improvements.

Many states with Republican governors have good Amtrak service. They can play a key role in persuading Republican leadership in Congress of the importance of keeping Amtrak. Please start writing to your legislators and governor urging them to work for continuing fiscal 1996 Amtrak funding at current levels.

The last day Amtrak employees could sign their voluntary separation agreements was November 14. Those who signed have until November 21 to change their minds. The number signing was large and included many experienced employees, some with over 20 years' service. Actual departures begin November 30. Some employees have or may soon have job offers from the SBU's. Others already have jobs outside Amtrak and still others may go through a long period with no job.

The Association of American Railroads announced a buyout of its own, as its 1995 budget will show 22% less in contributions from member railroads. It has cut its work force by 12%.

The American Passenger Rail Coalition has been established by the supply industry to promote passenger rail, including Amtrak. Its members include Morrison Knudsen, General Motors, General Electric, Siemens, and ABB. One of its primary messages will be the economic benefits of rail investment. The executive director of the group is Harriet Parcells, who continues as director of the Campaign for New Transportation Priorities and as NARP transportation associate.

The Talgo train resumed revenue service on November 15 between Seattle and Portland.

As usual, special schedules will be in effect for the Thanksgiving period on the Northeast, Keystone, and Empire Corridors. They are in effect November 22-28.

There will be an open house at the Amtrak station at Springfield, Mass., November 20, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with a ceremony at 12:00 noon. This caps a $2 million renovation project that began in March.

Through-service from London to Paris and Brussels by way of the Channel Tunnel finally started November 14. Initially there will be only two round-trips a day from London to either destination, but that will be expanded greatly within a year as more new Eurostar train sets are delivered. The service is priced and scheduled to be competitive with airlines. Radio reporters on the BBC on November 14 interviewed several happy passengers.