Amtrak warns about need for rail funding reform

Amtrak boss Joe Boardman has pleaded with the US government to increase rail spending next year or risk major infrastructure failures.

The operator is seeking a 16 per cent increase in its capital and operational budget in 2015 to ensure the reliability of the country’s vital Northeast Corridor (NEC).

Amtrak has said that if it does not see its funding increase to $1.62 billion next year, the government risks “bigger, costlier and far more damaging failure than anything yet seen”.

Boardman has also stressed the need to introduce a ‘multi-year capital investment’ programme to allow Amtrak to plan major projects, such as the replacement of ageing bridges and tunnels along the NEC route.

Amtrak president Boardman said: “Infrastructure deterioration and changes in business patterns have reached a point where something has to change.

“If America wants a modern intercity passenger rail system, the problems of policy and funding must be addressed.

“Increased ridership, enhanced operating performance and stronger financial management are part of an improving Amtrak. It is time to consider a new paradigm for federal financial support.

“The reality is that status quo federal funding levels put the Northeast Corridor infrastructure at increased risk of major failure with serious economic consequences for the nation.

“The nation cannot afford to let a railroad that carries half of Amtrak’s trains and 80 per cent of the nation’s rail commuters fall apart.”