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Amtrak Faces Challenges Sustaining Increased Utilization At Its Heavy Maintenance Facilities

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On September 22, 2011, we issued a report on the challenges Amtrak will face to sustain recent increases in the utilization of its heavy maintenance facilities once its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding expires.  We conducted this review under the direction of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, which required DOT-OIG to conduct a utilization study of Amtrak's maintenance facilities.  We found that Amtrak used part of its ARRA funding to increase its heavy maintenance workforce and more fully utilize available capacity at two of three heavy maintenance facilities.  However, when ARRA funding expires in September 2011, Amtrak will no longer be able to sustain this expanded workforce and will have to lay off the majority, if not all, of these employees and incur costs associated with the layoffs.  To help address this challenge, Amtrak has decided to market its maintenance services to other rail carriers to increase utilization and generate new revenues through its Beech Grove facility.  The company has improved Beech Grove's maintenance processes, but still must overcome the facility's aged infrastructure to become more competitive in the maintenance services market. Furthermore, Amtrak's inexperience in this market puts it at a competitive disadvantage.  We made two recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Administrator regarding Amtrak's planning to meet its workforce challenges and increase the Beech Grove facility's utilization.  FRA concurred with both recommendations and we consider those recommendations resolved but open pending completion of FRA's planned actions to address them.