A federal oversight panel
declared Friday that Amtrak will not meet a congressional deadline for achieving
financial self-sufficiency, a finding that forces Amtrak to come up with a
plan for its own liquidation, according to published reports. The 6-5 vote
by the Amtrak Reform Council does not mean the passenger railroad will close.
Congress will review
Amtrak's liquidation plan and a proposal to be drawn up by the council for
a restructured national passenger rail system. Congress then will make a final
decision about the future of Amtrak and rail service.
In 1997, Congress created
the council to evaluate Amtrak's finances and to make a definitive judgment
about the railway's financial viability. Since then, officials say Amtrak
has made progress toward weaning itself from federal operating subsidies but
the council ruled it still won't meet Congress' deadline of Dec. 2, 2002.
Amtrak President George
Warrington rejected cuts to stem losses last year and announced the railway
would pursue new routes and business opportunities such as time-sensitive
package delivery. But by late summer Amtrak acknowledged it was falling short
of ridership and revenue projections.