Passenger Rail News Briefs

Lawmakers warn House is underfunding Amtrak

Lawmakers warned that Amtrak could go out of business next year if Congress goes along with a $900 million funding level supported by the Bush administration.

"At this level, there should be no surprise next spring when Amtrak must curtail services," Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) told the Associated Press as the House began debate on an $89.9 billion bill to fund Transportation and Treasury Department programs in the coming budget year.

The administration, said Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), is engaged in the "the continued conscious and deliberate underfunding of Amtrak."

A Senate subcommittee approved $1.2 billion for Amtrak, while Amtrak officials say $1.8 billion is needed to keep the railway operating.

(From the Associated Press)

SEPTA warns of deep cuts

On September 9, SEPTA officials said they would have to eliminate all weekend service, increase fares an average of 25 percent, and fire 16 percent of its employees by January 1 if the state legislature did not increase the agency's funding and erase a $62 million deficit.

In June, SEPTA adopted a $920 million budget for 2005, but with a $62 million deficit. The agency said if it did not receive money to close that gap by October, it would propose service cuts and fare increases.

In the past, SEPTA has detailed dramatic service cuts to cope with funding shortfalls, but those measures never included reducing the workforce. And the agency eventually received or found enough money to avert the worst-case scenarios, such as last year's threat to eliminate four Regional Rail lines and the C bus route.

(Philadelphia Inquirer)

SEPTA electrician inadvertently causes security scare

A mysterious motion detector - spray painted black and concealed in ballast along SEPTA tracks in Philadelphia - caused a great deal of concern among security officials in light of recent terrorist threats to America's railroads. One Philadelphia television station reported that the device could be used as a triggering device for a bomb. The FBI and SEPTA police launched an investigation.

Turns out device was not hidden by a terrorist, but by a sleepy employee. A veteran SEPTA electrician, who worked the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift, came forward and admitted to placing the device along the tracks. He rigged the motion detector to signal an alarm in his work shed that would wake him up when the boss was coming.

(Philadelphia Inquirer.)



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