(Host) Congress has approved a budget for Amtrak next year that is considerably less than the amount the rail corporation says it needs to operate. Amtrak says it’s losing more than $630 million annually. State officials say it’s too early to tell what affect the shortfall will have on service to Vermont. And they say Amtrak’s claim that ridership on train service to Vermont is down is misleading.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) Like many other states, Vermont helps subsidize Amtrak’s rail passenger service. The state will give Amtrak $2.5 million for the current fiscal year ending June 30. The money goes to help pay for the Ethan Allen Express which runs from New York to Rutland and the Vermonter which travels between Washington, D.C. and St. Albans.
Charles Miller is with the Vermont Agency of Transportation. He says it’s too early to tell how much Vermont will have to pay for the trains in the next fiscal year, but there’s no question Amtrak’s continued financial problems will affect the state subsidy.
(Miller) “I don’t know at what point the proverbial straw that breaks that camel’s back is going to happen and they’re going to say to us that the service is going to double in cost. But I agree at some point in time they’re probably going to be coming to us with extensive demands on the reimbursement of the costs of the service.”
(Zind) Miller says Amtrak figures showing a decreased ridership on the two trains are misleading. He says they reflect the fact the trains have fewer riders at other points along their routes. Miller says the number of people taking the trains to Vermont remains relatively unchanged. It’s down slightly on the Vermonter and up on the Ethan Allen Express in the last fiscal year.
Miller says the state has looked into taking over operations of the trains, but the cost is estimated at $5 million to $6 million.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.