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Amtrak lost $84.5 million selling food and beverages last year and has lost $833.8 million over 10 years, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica said.
It costs taxpayers $3.40 for each can of soda the passenger railroad sells on its trains, and Amtrak charges $2.00, the Florida Republican said at a hearing today. If Amtrak’s losses on food are spread over its 1,200 employees who work in the food service unit, taxpayers are subsidizing $68,477 for each worker, he said.
“At a time of running multitrillion-dollar deficits, we’ve got to look at every area of government,” Mica said. “Hardworking Americans are underwriting these losses. There has to be a better way.”
The hearing comes as Amtrak is laying out big expansion plans. Last month, Amtrak proposed a renovation of Washington’s Union Station that would cost at least $6.5 billion, and published a $151 billion, three-decade plan for bringing 220- miles-per-hour service to its busiest route, between Washington and Boston.
Republican suggestions to further use outside food-service contractors would eliminate good jobs, with good wages and benefits, and replace them with low-wage positions, said West Virginia Representative Nick Rahall, the panel’s senior Democrat.
Food costs aren’t the major cause of Amtrak’s financial difficulties, and congressional micromanagement has made it impossible for Amtrak to make good decisions, Rahall said.
“This is a whopper of a bad idea if I have ever heard one: trading good-paying jobs with benefits for cheaper cheeseburgers,” he said.
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