Acela Service Returns
Amtrak chugs on despite hurdles
After halting its high-speed Acela trains this
spring due to brake-disc cracks, Amtrak resumed some of its Acela
Express service along the Northeast corridor in mid-July, with full
resumption slated for this fall.
The restart of Acela service came after months of uncertainty
for the nation’s only passenger rail network. First, in February,
the Bush administration’s fiscal 2006 budget proposal eliminated
Amtrak’s funding, a move designed to force the railway into a major
reduction of its operations.
Then, in April, Amtrak inspectors made a disturbing discovery:
cracked brake discs on all 20 Acela trains. The budget woes and
brake problems threw the future of the railway into serious doubt.
Summer brought better news: The funding denial was reversed by
the U.S. House of Representatives. And, at press time, a Senate
appropriations subcommittee cleared a bill that would provide
Amtrak with $1.4 billion for 2006. That must be OK’d by the full
Senate and then by Congress.
But the outlook remains shaky for the railway. After the House
restored funding, Norman Y. Mineta, secretary of transportation,
remarked, “Handing over more than a billion dollars with no reforms
attached only gives Amtrak a blank check to continue misspending