Sen. Flake: Amtrak's Rail Writers Program a Waste

Image: Sen. Flake: Amtrak's Rail Writers Program a Waste

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 08:29 AM

By Elliot Jager

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An Amtrak publicity program offering 24 emerging and established writers the chance to be inspired by their overnight train journeys has been slammed by Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake as a waste, The Hill reported.

The free Amtrak residency is billed as providing writers who are keen on train travel an environment to inspire their creativity. The program includes a two-to-five-day round-trip journey in a private sleeper car equipped with a desk.

The program stretches from March 17, 2014, to March 31, 2015.

Flake said that Amtrak, which receives $1 billion annually from the federal government, should not be offering free trips at taxpayers' expense.

Amtrak defended the program as "low-risk, high-reward" publicity, noting that ticket sales cover about 80 percent of its operating budget, The Hill reported.

"The Amtrak residency campaign concept was created by closely listening to Amtrak customers and fans through social media," spokesman Steve Kulm told The Hill.

The senator was criticized in 2013 by the National Association of Railroad passengers for proposing an amendment that would ban federal funds from being used to subsidize costs related to food and beverage on trains. The association maintains that reduced food service would result in a huge loss of ridership.

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