TTD  Supports Amtrak

WASHINGTON -- The AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department has filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to stop the Amtrak Reform Council from recommending to Congress that Amtrak's monopoly on passenger rail should be broken, according to a wire service.

Eleven unions asked a federal judge in U.S. District Court in Washington to block the council's report from going to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The unions, members of the rail labor division of the AFL-CIO's transportation trades department, say the council:

--Reached it conclusions prematurely, because it is supposed to consider a report by the Transportation Department inspector general that has not been released.

--Exceeded its authority by recommending the breakup of Amtrak as a national system.

--Performed work that was “executive in nature” despite being formed by the legislative branch of government.

Richard Edelman, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said he will seek a restraining order to prevent the council from releasing its report on Feb. 7, as scheduled.

Some of the allegations in the lawsuit were raised during council meetings by Charles Moneypenny, rail labor's designated representative on the panel. He is a leader of the Transport Workers Union of America, one of the unions that filed the lawsuit.

“The lawsuit is without merit and should be dismissed by the court,” said Kenneth Kolson, the reform panel's lawyer.

The 1997 law that created the reform council authorized it to propose a “restructured” national rail passenger system if it concluded that Amtrak would not achieve operating self-sufficiency by Dec. 2, 2002.

But the council had to take into account, among other factors, a study of Amtrak's finances through fiscal year 2002 by the Department of Transportation.

That study has been delayed but is due out soon. In voting not to wait for the study, a majority of council members said they were satisfied it would contain no surprises.

The reform council voted Jan. 11 to recommend opening the nation's entire intercity rail system to competition.

Amtrak, for three decades the nation's monopoly provider of long-distance trains, would be given an opportunity to compete with private companies to operate the trains.

But Amtrak-owned tracks and stations, as well as its operations and policy-making authority, would be distributed among state, federal and private entities.