May 2002 IBEW Journal
Americas passenger railroad system is nearing a critical crossroads. Amtraks 1997 congressional mandate to become self-supporting by 2002 has expired. Its fate now is back in the hands of Congress. And whether Amtrak will survive depends on the success or failure of two leading proposalsone that dismantles and privatizes it and the other that leaves it intact.
Which one prevails will seal the fate of approximately 1,435 IBEW members employed by Amtrak. Amtraks uncertain future has already cost 87 IBEW members their jobs. The members affected, all from Delaware, are from System Council 7.
The bad news is Amtrak is nowhere near solvency. The company lost more last year$1.1 billionthan any time in its 31-year history, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates. But even its most ardent critics, including Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), who sponsors legislation to break up Amtrak, cannot point to any national passenger rail serviceanywhere on earththat is self-supporting.
Amtraks survival depends on whether the country is able to accept that passenger rail service is as important to the United States as other means and methods of transportation, like roads, airlines, buses and subways, which receive far more public funds than Amtrak, said IBEW International President Ed Hill. Rail passenger service is a must for any modern country.
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Mulls its Fate