updated 9/9/2005 8:37:59 PM ET 2005-09-10T00:37:59

Amtrak announced Friday it will raise fares nationally to counter higher energy costs, with Northeast Corridor commuters holding monthly rail passes seeing a fare hike of about 50 percent.

The average fare nationally will increase $3, and the average fare in the Northeast Corridor will go up $4, Amtrak said. The adjustments go into effect Sept. 20.

“Amtrak must respond to increased costs of operation which have risen for a variety of reasons, including higher energy costs,” said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. “We periodically adjust fares upward in response to market conditions and we try to set fares at a level that will produce the most revenue.”

Amtrak said fuel costs have risen nearly 40 percent over a year ago and are expected to remain high.

Hardest hit will be the approximately 18,000 Northeast Corridor commuters who have monthly passes, whose fares will increase an average of 50 percent. The cost of monthly passes vary. A monthly pass to ride Amtrak between Trenton, N.J., and New York City currently costs $522. The trains run largely on electricity.

Rep. Robert Andrews, D-NJ, rides Amtrak from Philadelphia to Washington several times a week when Congress is in session, but does not hold a monthly pass. He said that he has heard several complaints from commuters about the fares.

“You could not pick a worse time to raise train fares, with gas prices skyrocketing, making public transportation more attractive,” Andrews said. “I sat next to a guy yesterday who said he and his friends were talking about carpooling rather than taking the train.”

New Jersey’s Democratic senators — Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg — were preparing to send Amtrak chairman David Laney a letter Friday expressing their outrage that Northeast Corridor commuters would be bearing the brunt of the fare hikes.

“As electrified rail service, service along the Corridor should be immune from recent elevated oil prices,” they said in the letter. “This huge price increase and the way it will be abruptly implemented appear targeted at taking out the frustration caused by pitiful Bush administration policies on the wallets of Northeastern commuters.”

The fare hikes come at a time when fiscally strapped Amtrak’s high-speed Acela trains are still not operating at 100 percent. The trains were pulled out of operation in April after cracks in many of the trains’ brake discs were discovered.

Limited Acela service resumed in July. Eighteen of Acela’s 20-train fleet have been equipped with new brake discs, made from a different design. The cause of the brake problem has still not been determined.

In July, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would cut Amtrak’s operating subsidy by 40 percent, leaving the railroad $3.3 billion in subsidies over six years. The cuts would be absorbed through cost cutting, restructuring and reform.

Amtrak would receive $4.9 billion over six years for capital improvements, and the proposal would create a grant program giving states $1.4 billion for intercity passenger rail service.

Amtrak received a $1.2 billion subsidy for the current year. Another Senate measure would give Amtrak a $1.4 billion subsidy next year.

The Bush administration and some lawmakers have pushed to eliminate Amtrak subsidies.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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