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For More Information Contact:
Deirdre O'Sullivan
(202) 366-0631
January 24, 2000

For Immediate Release

The Amtrak Reform Council (the Council), an independent oversight commission established by Congress, will release its first Annual Report titled "A Preliminary Assessment of Amtrak" at a Press Conference at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, January 24, 2000. The Press Conference will be held in the Bunker Hill Room at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill at 400 New Jersey, NW, Washington D.C.

The Council's Chairman, Gil Carmichael states in the releasing the Annual Report that "This year's report does not reach any conclusions about Amtrak's long-term future. It provides a picture of the Amtrak organization as it exists today, it presents the Council's perspective on Amtrak's performance to this juncture, and it raises questions and issues that the Council believes should be addressed in its future efforts and, ultimately, by the Congress. The Council is a diverse body of eleven members from various backgrounds, and while we made every effort to achieve unanimity among the Council, this first Annual Report includes the minority views of three of the eleven members who voted not to approve the Report."

Highlights of the Report

The Council wishes to make clear that this is a statutorily required Annual Report and is not in any sense a finding, and, were the Council at some future date to make such a finding, it would be the subject of a separate report.

The Annual Report discusses among other items:

  • Amtrak's Broad Range of Complex Functions. (i) an intercity rail passenger service provider (ii) an infrastructure company for the Northeast Corridor; (iii) a rail equipment manufacturing, maintenance and repair company; (iv) a contractor or potential contractor for domestic rail commuter services and foreign passenger services; (v) a real estate development company; and (vi) an entity that functions in certain respects as if it were a federal agency.

  • Measurement of Amtrak's Performance. The Council believes, based Section 203 of the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, that Amtrak's ability to operate "without federal operating grant funds" should be measured by using Amtrak's financial statements, which are prepared according to generally accepted accounting principles, and which assume that Amtrak will remain in business indefinitely at the same business volume and level of technology. Amtrak proposes, instead, that federal appropriations acts and historical practices in place in FY1997 result in an implied test of operating self-sufficiency that literally depends on Amtrak's not needing cash from "federal operating grant funds" after FY2002, but which excludes the funding of several expenses, which are estimated to total $567 million in FY2002, that have been (and Amtrak assumes will continue to be) funded by "federal capital grant funds," even though they are included as operating expenses in Amtrak's financial statements, which are prepared according to generally accepted accounting principles. Both approaches exclude federal funds authorized and appropriated to reimburse Amtrak for excess mandatory Railroad Retirement Taxes.

  • The Three Statutorily-Assigned Tasks. The Council's preliminary assessment of Amtrak's use of Taxpayer Relief Act fund indicates that Amtrak has not yet used a significant portion of the $2.2 billion for the high-priority, high-return investments needed to help its financial performance. On productivity improvement, Amtrak and the Council are working together to agree on acceptable methodologies for measuring cost savings achieved through work-rule changes and for monitoring general labor productivity. Regarding recommendations for route closures or realignments, the Council is awaiting the release of Amtrak's network analysis based on its new analytical and planning tool, the Market- Based Network Analysis.

  • Recommendations for Improvement that the Council has forwarded to Amtrak. In November 1999, the Council made certain recommendations to the Amtrak Board including (i) setting up Mail & Express as a separate business unit or profit center; (ii) setting up the operations of the NEC fixed plant as a profit center within the NEC Business unit with its own income statement, balance sheet, and capital plan; (iii) developing contingency plans for corrective actions as part of its strategic business plan; and (iv) implementing a program for annual cost savings in Amtrak's corporate overhead.

  • Issues and Next Steps. The Report identified key issues that the Council intends to address over the coming year. These include: (i) possible changes in institutional structure that might improve the quality of intercity rail passenger service; (ii) Amtrak's capital structure; (iii) potential improvements in providing financing for the federal investment in Amtrak; (iv) options for introducing competition into the provision of intercity rail passenger service; and (v) measures to improve the productivity of Amtrak's assets, employees, and use of energy and materials.


In 1997, Congress enacted the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (ARAA), reform legislation requiring that Amtrak operate without "Federal operating grant funds" by the end of FY2002. The Congress also established the Amtrak Reform Council as a bipartisan oversight body of 11 members, charged with, among other tasks, monitoring Amtrak's progress in improving its financial performance to achieve the goals of the Act.

The Council's principal mandated tasks include: (1) reporting to Congress annually with respect to its oversight role in evaluating and making recommendations regarding Amtrak's performance, and (2) should the Council find on or before the end of FY2002, that Amtrak will not meet the financial goals of the Act, developing an action plan to restructure and rationalize the national system of intercity rail passenger services and submitting the plan to the President and Congress.

The Annual Report will be posted on the Council's website ( on Monday, January 24, 2000.

Past press releases are available here for your convenience


The ARC is an independent federal commission established under the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-134).