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At odds over Amtrak

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 22, 2001
A report by the Amtrak Reform Council recommending the creation of a federal entity to oversee the passenger rail service is at odds with what the U.S. Congress envisioned, says Mayor John Robert Smith.
Smith, a member of the Amtrak Board of Directors, says the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 was designed to wean the service from federal support and that the new recommendations would make Amtrak more dependent.
Meridian businessman Gil Carmichael is chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council. His report also suggests that Amtrak's management team is trying to do too many things at once and recommends the company focus on passenger and express delivery services while a separate company maintains the railroad tracks and stations.
Smith said turning over so much control of Amtrak's operations would be unlikely to lead to better service conditions. Smith said he believes less control could adversely affect profitability in some of Amtrak's key markets including its Northeastern corridor.
Smith said Amtrak's ability to control many aspects of its service ensures on-time arrivals for high-speed trains like the new Acela. Without that control, Smith said, on-time service and profitability may both vanish.
Smith said long-distance trains such as the Crescent, which stops in Meridian, could suffer under the proposed scenario also because profits generated by Acela help keep the long-distance routes open.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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