Deteriorated Financial and Operating Conditions Threaten Long-Term Viability

T-RCED-95-142: Published: Mar 23, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1995.

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GAO discussed Amtrak's financial and operating conditions and its fiscal year 1996 request for appropriations. GAO noted that: (1) Amtrak's financial condition has deteriorated steadily since 1990 and its ability to provide nationwide service is threatened; (2) federal subsidies in recent years have not covered the widening gap between Amtrak's expenses and revenues; (3) Amtrak drew down its working capital from a positive balance of $113 million in 1987 to a negative balance of $227 million in 1994 to meet immediate cash needs; (4) Amtrak addressed its financial situation by assuming debt, deferring maintenance, and reducing staffing, which caused a decline in service quality, ridership, and revenues; (5) Amtrak plans to reduce expenses by adjusting routes and service frequencies, retiring its oldest cars, reducing staff, and improving service and productivity; (6) even if its plan is completely successful, Amtrak will need an additional $1.3 billion in federal support to meet all of its expenses through 2000; (7) Amtrak forecasts a $2.6-billion shortfall if federal support is phased out; (8) Amtrak needs significant increases in passenger revenues or subsidies to overcome its financial problems, although revenues are not likely to increase due to fare competition from the airlines; (9) Amtrak must soon negotiate new labor agreements and agreements with freight railroads to use their track; and (10) it is uncertain what consequences will ensue in the absence of additional federal support.

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