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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Just Say No to Amtrak Service Center Outsourcing; The ‘Am’ Stands for ‘America’

Posted by kinchendavid on July 16, 2006

By David M. Kinchen 

Dave Kinchen prepares to board an Amtrack train at the Hinton, WV  station

Hinton, WV  – A big hand and a tip of the Kinchen hat (you should be wearing one, too, during these bright summer days) to U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd, D-WV., and Patty Murray, D-WA., who called on Amtrak’s senior management not to outsource its excellent reservation system.
According to a story we just posted on all three sites of HNN, Amtrak’s senior management recently informed Byrd and Murray that the railroad’s Board of Directors, all appointed by the Bush Administration, will invite private vendors to take over major parts of its national reservation system, including vendors based overseas.
“After having to fight to keep Amtrak alive in the face of budgets that would have put the railroad into bankruptcy, now we are fighting to keep Amtrak’s jobs here in the United States,” the Senators explained. “Amtrak is America’s railroad. It is funded in part with American tax dollars. Its jobs should be American jobs.”
Byrd and Murray on July 6, 2006 wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and David M. Laney, Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors, to protest the outsourcing plan and to urge the railroad “to step away from its efforts to take jobs out of the United States. The letter was also sent to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who has just announced his departure from the Bush Administration, along with the other members of the Amtrak Board. If the railroad does not reverse its plans, the Senators pledged to offer an amendment to the Amtrak funding legislation that would block the overseas outsourcing plan.”
Good for them! I’m preparing to leave for a trip to Chicago from Hinton – via Amtrak, of course – and I’d like to report my very pleasant experience obtaining my tickets by phone (1-800-USARAIL). I prefer talking to a person rather than a disembodied voice, so I was connected to a very pleasant woman in Riverside, CA. I chatted with her as we made the arrangements for the roundtrip to Chicago in mid-July. She thanked me for traveling Amtrak and I had a nice conversation, recalling my visits to Riverside, which boasts a beautiful courthouse and a gone-forever race track that never should have been destroyed, Riverside International Raceway. It was the last of its breed in Southern California and deserved a better fate than being turned into a shopping center.
The tickets arrived in plenty of time for the trip and I have to compliment Amtrak on another example of excellent customer service. As contributing HNN columnist and native West Virginian Rene Henry pointed out in his latest column, customer service in America is an endangered species. We need more and better service and I’ve never been disappointed in Amtrak in my many years of using their reservation service.
Memo to Amtrak’s board of directors and the Bush Administration: Amtrak’s reservation system isn’t broke, so don’t try to fix it! The pleasant woman who handled my ticket purchase may be supporting a family and I definitely agree with Byrd and Murray who stated in the letter to Mineta and Laney that “We believe it is wrong to use taxpayer dollars to ship Amtrak jobs overseas and put American workers on the unemployment line. This policy insults American taxpayers who expect their elected and appointed leaders to strengthen rather than erode the economic security of hard-working American families. Amtrak service relies on subsidies that are derived from the taxes paid by all Americans.”


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