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Amtrak Fires President Days After Bad Report

Congress granted Amtrak about $1.2 billion in the past fiscal year. Last week, the Senate approved $1.4 billion in annual funding for 2006; in June, the House approved $1.17 billion. The two houses must now reconcile the difference.

This summer, Gunn described the administration's plan as being designed by "policy wonks and politicians." He said yesterday that the administration intends to dismantle the railroad. "They have a very different vision for the place. Zero funding, bankruptcy and break it up. My efforts were not being helpful in what they were trying to accomplish," he said.

Laney denied Gunn's assertions. "Nobody on the board envisions any of those three scenarios," he said.

Known as a blunt but skilled manager, Gunn, 68, came out of retirement after a long career in passenger rail to lead Amtrak in 2002. He declined an invitation in 1994 to serve as Amtrak's president.

From 1991 through early 1994, he served as general manager of Washington's Metro system. He won praise from passengers for cleaning up Metro's bus and rail system by repairing and replacing aging cars and buses.

But Gunn did not enjoy the political aspects of the job and upset some members of the Metro board by making operating decisions without consulting them.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) defended Gunn and called the firing "a crushing blow to Amtrak's hopes for success and reform."

In addition to the GAO report, Amtrak has faced other problems recently. In April, it was forced to shut down its popular high-speed Acela Express line for nearly three months after it discovered hairline cracks in 300 of 1,440 brake disks.

Amtrak has also been the subject of several recent race-discrimination lawsuits filed by employees and passengers. It settled one of those suits last week for an undisclosed sum and agreed to track complaints better.

Gunn, who maintains dual residence in Northern Virginia and Nova Scotia, said he had no plans other than to go hiking in the mountains of Virginia. "I don't have to get another job. I was doing this because I believe in the company."


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