Passenger Rail News Briefs

Update on Amtrak FY2005 funding

On July 15, the Transportation and Treasury Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee marked up its fiscal year 2005 appropriations bill and earmarked just $900 million for Amtrak. Amtrak says it needs $1.83 billion to keep the system running. The full committee left it at that mark when it considered the bill on July 22.

Representative John Olver (D-Mass.) was planning to offer an amendment that would have increased the appropriation, but declined to offer it because there were no offsetting cuts made in other areas. The appropriations bill will be considered by the full House in September, at which time an amendment to increase the appropriation for Amtrak may be introduced.

The Senate has not considered transportation appropriations at this time.

The Bush administration's budget proposal would give Amtrak $1.4 billion, which would be contingent on Amtrak following the reform proposal outlined by the White House. The proposal calls for the privatization of the system. The Bush administration stands behind a plan that would require private sector competition for railroad operations, and would place the financial burden for passenger rail on cash-strapped states.

Senator John McCain has proposed a similar plan for "Amtrak reform."

(From BLET staff reports).

MBTA quietly ran trains for DNC delegates

The MBTA quietly provided special Orange Line trains for people exiting the FleetCenter on all four nights of the Democratic National Convention, opening the otherwise closed North Station so that some 3,200 delegates, journalists, and others with convention credentials could be whisked to Back Bay Station, free of charge.

Five to six of the special trains were swept for bombs at a railyard and then pulled into North Station, starting at about 10:30 each night. The trains departed regularly, and each made an express run to Back Bay until about midnight, primarily as a security measure to clear the FleetCenter area quickly, said Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Regular trains ran in between the special trains, so there was ''no impact on service," Pesaturo said. People on the platforms at the five stations between the FleetCenter and Back Bay ''saw a train full of people go by, but there was a train right behind it" to pick them up, he said.

Jeremy Marin, a member of the Rider Oversight Committee, a watchdog panel of T customers, said he thought it was a good thing that the conventioneers were put on a train, because the alternative was to pile into shuttle buses, taxis, and limousines, which add to congestion and pollution.

(From the Boston Globe).

Amtrak reservations required during RNC

As a security precaution, nearly all Amtrak passengers who want to ride the rails between Washington, D.C., and Boston during the Republican National Convention will have to make reservations in advance, the railroad announced on July 26. Amtrak will begin implementing its security measures on Aug. 28.

Amtrak also warned of delays during the convention because of tighter security on all trains to and from New York Penn Station, which is directly below Madison Square Garden, where the convention will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 2. Street access to Penn Station will be limited to two entrances.

Trains will be searched before they leave in the morning, and police will conduct inspections while trains are en route. Bomb-sniffing dogs will be present on trains and at Penn Station, Amtrak said.

(From the Associated Press).



© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen