Two anti-train amendments down -- more votes to come in the House

Written By Sean Jeans Gail

Following a debate on the House floor, two anti-train amendments were withdrawn by the Representatives offering them.

An amendment offered by Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) would directly shut down Amtrak’s long-distance trains. This would end passenger train service in 27 of the lower 48 states and threaten the remaining trains, as certain fixed costs that would not disappear would be shifted to the surviving trains, and the costs of closing routes also would be substantial.

An amendment from Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) would accomplish a similar objective, albeit more indirectly, by prohibiting use of appropriated funds on food and beverage service. At the June 9, 2005, Railroads Subcommittee hearing on Amtrak food service, then-Amtrak Executive VP—Transportation William Crosbie’s prepared statement included this: “Amtrak’s food and beverage service is a fundamental part of the service that we offer on the majority of the trains that we operate on a daily basis. Its primary purpose is to enhance ticket sales and ridership, not serve as a profit center.” (Translation: no food service, huge loss of ridership, and not just on the long-distance trains. But it’s hard to make money when your clientele is limited to people on one train.) Read NARP President Ross Capon’s prepared testimony for the 2005 hearing for more information. The entire hearing is available here.

While it is premature to say that we are “out of the woods,” the withdrawal of those amendments is certainly encouraging. Thank you to everyone whose work the past few days – and over many months and years – has helped create an environment hostile to such amendments.