The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 19, 2013

Barletta rails against Amtrak waste

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY —  U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta says he’s fed up with Amtrak’s food and beverage department wasting taxpayer dollars.

The passenger rail service needed $1.4 billion in subsidies from Congress in 2012, and many Republicans are disgusted that so much money is being lost on train travel, he said.

Barletta, R-11 of Hazleton, first addressed Congress in late 2012 about Amtrak’s financial problems.

“We can’t continue to use a business model that isn’t working,” he said. “There isn’t one person who would continue to operate this business if it was their private business. We can’t have an open checkbook. There are things Amtrak does well, and we should improve on them, and there are things they don’t do well that must be fixed. We can’t continue to depend on the taxpayers to throw money at it.”

Amtrak has lost more than $800 million on its food and beverage services over the past 10 years, largely because of waste, employee theft and lack of proper oversight, government auditors have found.

“I worked for one year to try and find $15 million to help people back home in my district after we were hit with the floods,” Barletta said. “There is $16 million a year if we stop the food and beverage sales. I was sent to Washington on a message from the American people to spend their tax money wisely. I’m not going to be so patient with this business model because it is not working.”

According to audits by the Government Accountability Office and the railroad’s inspector general, Amtrak’s food service has lost $834 million since 2002.

Amtrak had said it was increasing the use of credit cards for food sales to cut down on cash thefts by employees, reducing staff, creating a better system to track inventory and to collect revenue.

Last year, Amtrak spent $206 million in providing food services but collected only about $121 million, according to the government audit. “I’m still on this and looking into it,” Barletta said.

“Taxpayers should not be losing money on food and beverage when you have a captive audience and no competition.”

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.