Excerpt from the letter:
We, the undersigned members of The Aurora Group urge the Amtrak Board of Directors, Amtrak OIG and Senate / House Transportation Committees to perform due diligence by conducting an investigation into Amtrak’s long-distance fleet maintenance and equipment assignment policies...
During the summer of 2020, despite warnings from former Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn, Amtrak began storing serviceable equipment in advance of tri-weekly service frequency cuts - despite billions from Congress received in pandemic funding to prevent just such an action.
Today, a great quantity of this equipment remains stored. During a December 1, 2022 board meeting in St. Louis, Amtrak claimed “...stored equipment that is no longer commercially viable are essentially donations to the parts supply.”
The Aurora Group co-chair George Chilson states, "Amtrak is missing grand opportunities for revenue and growth. The primary reason Amtrak receives public funding is to serve the mobility needs of travelers all over America."
The Aurora Group calls upon Congress to begin investigations into Amtrak equipment maintenance policies. Our leadership sees a need to Repair - Rebuild - and Replace equipment. Unless Amtrak invests currently available funds to bring its entire long-distance fleet back into a state of good repair, the continued operation AND the anticipated restoration and/or expansion of routes is at risk.
This Trains Magazine story Amtrak mobility, pricing affected by sidelined long-distance equipment: Analysis | by Bob Johnston | April 7, 2023 details missed opportunities related to Amtrak's current equipment, staffing, and service meltdown.
"This is an exceptionally coherent and cogent explanation of Amtrak's fundamental problem today--the opposition of its own management to continuing its role as a truly national carrier. Amtrak completely fails to understand the multiple markets these long distance trains serve and the vital role they play at connecting points like Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, New York and Washington, DC in feeding connecting riders into its short-distance corridor services,"
Amtrak can be operated as a public service or concentrate on cutting costs. It can't do both. For many years, budget cutters insisted on profitability, which led to cutbacks, but Congress recognized the need for public service and explicitly made a national system its goal. Unfortunately, Amtrak continues to focus on cost-cutting while demand grows, which has led to severe service problems.
All travel modes are tax supported, from airlines enjoying the world’s safest air-traffic control system courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer to buses and trucks battering a highway system only half paid for by gas taxes.
Amtrak was created by Congress in 1971 as a quasi-government corporation that would receive public funding to operate intercity passenger trains. Amtrak is required to operate a national rail passenger system, tying together existing and emerging service.