MIL-OSI USA: Chairman Nehls Statement from Hearing on Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Troy E. Nehls (TX-22)

Washington, D.C. – Opening remarks, as prepared, of Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Troy E. Nehls (R-TX) from today’s hearing, entitled “Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Oversight: Promoting Performance, Safety, and Accountability”:

Today’s hearing will survey the current and future operations of Amtrak. Amtrak is federally chartered, owned by the federal government, and governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the President and subject to Senate confirmation.

As a generous recipient of taxpayer dollars to operate its system, Amtrak should focus on maintaining and improving its current services to increase revenue and achieve profitability. Instead, Amtrak seems content to lose roughly $1 billion per year by its own predictions and, flush with historic funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), is choosing to pursue costly and highly questionable acquisitions and route expansions that may not serve the best interests of the American commuter.

Amtrak ridership collapsed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ridership has since rebounded as of March 2024, yet much remains to be done to improve service and attract riders. Today’s hearing will provide an opportunity to continue this subcommittee’s examination of the challenges that are in the way of potential improvements.

For instance, in 2016, Amtrak received almost $2.5 billion in federal loans to procure new Acela trainsets. However, as of today, no trainsets have been entered into service. This is primarily because Amtrak approved the manufacture of new trainsets before the completion of required safety modeling that ensures the trains are safe to run on the Northeast Corridor track. As such, these trainsets are three years behind schedule and tens of millions of dollars over budget.

We also remain concerned about the lack of improvements in transparency and accountability at Amtrak following the record levels of funding it has received in recent years. The Amtrak Board of Directors does not make its meetings open to the public as other federally chartered entities do, and the Board has approved substantial “performance bonus” payments to Amtrak executives despite significant financial losses.

As the committee of jurisdiction over Amtrak, we will continue to monitor these critical issues and conduct oversight to ensure that taxpayer funding is used in the most effective manner to improve service and get Amtrak back on the road to profitability.

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