Amtrak's Future in Danger

By: Stan Torgerson
By: Stan Torgerson

Amtrak is in serious danger of going out of business. It can't generate enough dollars to pay its own way and Congress seems reluctant to bail it out again.

Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith, a former chairman of the Amtrak board of directors, says if Congress doesn't change its mind, the passenger rail line would likely have to shut down and service through Meridian would be lost.

"Well, a shutdown number is a shutdown in Meridian, Miss., or New York. It is just that. That's the reality of it. There is not an easy answer for Congress on the issue," Smith said.

Smith said Union Station would not bear the blunt of the blow.

"The blow to Meridian would not be from the standpoint of what happens to Union Station. It would still be full of life every night and during the day. What we would miss is the connectivity of our people for other parts of this country and to their familiar businesses, tourism to other parts of the country that really only passenger rail provides in that affordable choice," said Smith.

The fight is not yet over, he said. People who believe Amtrak is needed are banding together.

"We are, or will be, discussing with other mayors of Mississippi, really a Mississippi town hall meeting if you will, about the importance of passenger rail and we'll look to invite our federal delegation to be a part of that so they can hear first hand what it means to the state of Mississippi," said Smith.

Smith said Amtrak now carries more passengers more cost effectively with fewer employees than the company has ever done before.

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