Amtrak’s PR play collides with board’s accusations

WASHINGTON, DC: With a reputation for delayed trains and stalled projects, Amtrak has never been known for its timing. But the company suffered yet another PR black eye last week when, just days after publicly unveiling its new logo and customer-satisfaction guarantee, a member of the congressional Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) publicly alleged fraud and corruption at the government-subsidized railway.

WASHINGTON, DC: With a reputation for delayed trains and stalled projects, Amtrak has never been known for its timing. But the company suffered yet another PR black eye last week when, just days after publicly unveiling its new logo and customer-satisfaction guarantee, a member of the congressional Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) publicly alleged fraud and corruption at the government-subsidized railway.

WASHINGTON, DC: With a reputation for delayed trains and stalled

projects, Amtrak has never been known for its timing. But the company

suffered yet another PR black eye last week when, just days after

publicly unveiling its new logo and customer-satisfaction guarantee, a

member of the congressional Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) publicly alleged

fraud and corruption at the government-subsidized railway.



After resigning his ARC post, longtime Amtrak critic Joseph Vranich

submitted a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott accusing the

company of obstructing the council by ignoring requests for financial

data. He also accused the railway of practicing ’bogus’ bookkeeping

methods to conceal financial losses, adding service to the hometowns of

politically connected officials and benefiting from hidden subsidies,

such as a dollars 1 billion loan from the Canadian government.



Bill Shultz, Amtrak’s VP of corporate communications, called the charges

’absurd’ and said that Amtrak had no intention of addressing them.

’(Vranich) has shown himself to have no credibility and no objectivity,’

he said.



In an earlier interview, however, Amtrak spokesperson Steve Taubenkibel

had verified one of Vranich’s claims: that Amtrak was using slower

trains originally intended only as freight haulers for passenger trips.

’We have taken numerous measures to ensure that we achieve

self-sufficiency by 2003,’ he said, ’so yes, freight haulers are

doubling as passenger trains.’



Taubenkibel confirmed that a customer dissatisfied with being

transported on a freight hauler would be eligible to receive a free trip

under the terms of the new customer-satisfaction guarantee.



Luckily for Amtrak, Vranich’s claims did not garner the level of

coverage that the new brand identity did. ’(His) story got an inch in

the back pages of The (Washington) Post, compared to the hugely

successful rollout of our satisfaction guarantee,’ said Shultz. Both he

and Taubenkibel denied that Vranich’s actions would have any effect on

Amtrak’s plan for the debut of the logo and guarantee.



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