Amtrak Cancels Bulk Mail on Passenger Train

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Amtrak confirmed yesterday that it will stop carrying bulk mail Oct. 1, choosing instead to focus on its core business of transporting passengers.

"Amtrak's management decision to transport mail in box cars and passenger trains has been disruptive to passenger train operations," said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black, adding that the "marginal profits produced by carrying [bulk] mail [were] small enough that it made sense to ... do a better job of carrying passengers."

Amtrak informed the USPS of its decision last week. It has carried bulk mail on its passenger trains since it began service on May 1, 1971.

Black said Amtrak is ending its transportation of all bulk mail shipments, including shipments from the USPS as well as from less-than-truckload carriers. Most of the bulk mail carried by Amtrak is from the USPS. This year, the USPS' contract with Amtrak was worth $60 million, though it changes on a yearly basis.

Amtrak primarily carries First-Class mail on short-distance routes and Periodical mail on long-distance routes.

Amtrak is under pressure from the Bush administration to operate more efficiently. The administration proposed giving Amtrak a $900 million annual subsidy when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. However, Black said the $900 million figure is about half the amount needed and could force the railroad to shut down before next summer.

Ending mail service on Amtrak is likely to shift more bulk mail to freight railroads, long-haul trucks and airline service, according to the USPS.

Mailers are concerned that the stoppage could delay shipments.

"I am big-time concerned about how the USPS plans to move this mail, which currently gets to the West Coast in four days," said Glenn Sollenberger, director of postal affairs/distribution at Fry Communications Inc., Mechanicsburg, PA.

Fry is a printer/mailer of weekly publications, including DM News. It ships its weekly bulk mail on Amtrak via the USPS.

"My guess it that it will add at least two days to the delivery of these weekly publications," Sollenberger said.

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