Amtrak names new business operations, safety chiefs

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El-Sibalie is a former director of the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Office of Research and Development, and he also worked previously for the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

McDonough is a long-term Amtrak employee who was most recently the company's chief of business operations and technology. McDonough has been with Amtrak since 1981.

Prior to the end of the 112th Congress, Republican members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a series of hearings about Amtrak that were designed to argue that federal subsidies of the company's rail service were a waste of taxpayer dollars.

One of the hearings focused on Amtrak's plans to restructure, which CEO Joe Boardman told lawmakers was well under way.

Amtrak has received approximately $1 billion per year from Congress to subsidize its rail service since it was created in 1971, but the funding has become a target of GOP lawmakers looking to ways to reduce federal spending.

The company, and Democrats in the House who support rail funding, have pushed back on GOP criticism by pointing to Amtrak's recent record ridership. 

Incoming House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has sought to soften the panel's tone when it comes to Amtrak, saying it was possible to find "common ground" on rail funding. Democrats had accused Shuster's predecessor on the panel, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), of having an "unhealthy obsession" will eliminating the national passenger rail service's funding.