The $300 million in federal outlays currently budgeted for Conrail would allow the railroad to continue service only one more year, Consolidated Rail Corp. Chairman L. Stanley Crane told Congress yesterday.
In testimony before the House Transportation subcommittee, Crane said it was possible that the proposed funding -- $200 million in fiscal 1981 and $100 million in fiscal 1982 -- could last through July 1982 if certain concessions were made by labor, shippers, vendors and lenders. However, expressing skepticism that all that would occur, Crane added, "I frankly believe we will more likely exhaust the funds by the end of the first quarter of 1982.
"Clearly, if there is to be no more federal investment in Conrail, the government must begin now to take the actions required to split it up or liquidate it, and it doesn't have very long to do it before there is a threat to continued operations," he said.
"I cannot construct a scenario that would permit Conrail to continue to operate without more federal funding," Crane said. He said that Conrail will need an additional $242 million in federal funding by 1984 on top of the $300 million budgeted even if it can achieve $1.97 billion in major concessions from labor, shippers and others over the next five years.
However, Crane, who came to Conrail 2 1/2 months ago from the successful Southern Railway, said he believes Conrail could begin to make a profit in 1985 with the additional federal funds, some amount of restructuring, the concessions and relief from liability from expensive labor protective costs which it is required by law to give laid-off workers.
In other testimony, Federal Railroad Administrator Robert W. Blanchette said the Department of Transportation is considering various options for Conrail, including seeking major labor, route and pricing reforms; transferring Conrail's principal lines to profitable railroads; and auctioning off its lines to others. One thing is out, he said: "The status quo is unacceptable by all admissions."
If the government decides to require reforms in Conrail and not to split it up, "What resources are necessary will be made available," he said.
He called that option a "high-risk, high-cost proposition" that would require unprecedented cooperation and sacrifices by Conrail's employes, connecting carriers, shippers, suppliers, and state and local governments.
Blanchette said the DOT would make a "definitive statement" on Conrail by April 1.
Conrail was created in 1976 from the Penn Central and six other bankrupt railroads to preserve freight rail service in the Northeast and Midwest. Blanchette said Conrail has cost the taxpayers $6 billion since it was created.