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Callahan: Amtrak had time to get it together'

By By Robbie Byrd, News Editor
Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) said Friday at a town hall meeting in Atmore that Amtrak has been given 5 years and ample opportunity to get it together,' but has failed.
Callahan, who serves on the House Transportation committee, said that he doesn't think that giving Amtrak the $1.2 billion in federal funds it is asking for will solve the problem.
Callahan said that Amtrak has been a continuing problem, and that he feels Amtrak is not the best answer for passenger rail transportation in the U.S.
Callahan foresees that railroads companies, such as CSX, who own the rails should be allowed to take over passenger rail service.
The federal government created Amtrak in 1971 to relieve freight railway companies from the burden of transporting passengers. It is the sole passenger train transporter in the U.S.
Callahan dispelled Amtrak's complaints of post Sept. 11 travel hesitancy, saying that train ridership has actually increased.
President Bush has proposed $521 million for the 2003 fiscal year, but Amtrak officials say that this is not enough.
Gilbert Carmichael, chair of the reform council, said that the problem is not in funding, but in the company's structure and organization.
The council announced a plan to split the company into three, leaving one to oversee tracks and Amtrak owner property, another to make policy and a division to conduct general train operations.
The report will go before Callahan's committee and the Senate transportation committee for review.