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October 03, 2004|Jane Engle

Amtrak's tour firm closes

Amtrak last week promised to make good on about 3,500 pending vacation packages after ending its agreement with its tour operator.

Private Label Travel of Downers Grove, Ill., which organized more than 30,000 tours per year for Amtrak Vacations, notified Amtrak that it was having "serious financial difficulties."

Richard Dickieson, president of Private Label Travel, could not be reached for comment. An administrative assistant, Courtney Vecchione, said Tuesday: "We closed our business today."

Amtrak spokesman Bill Schulz said hotels and other suppliers would be paid by Amtrak. No decision had been made on whether to contract another tour company. Amtrak set up a hotline, (800) 805-9114, for customers with questions.

Rail line still shut in Vegas

The consulting firm that investigated the Exxon Valdez oil spill will conduct a safety review of the troubled Las Vegas Monorail.

Exponent, based in Menlo Park, Calif., will look into a series of mishaps along the four-mile monorail near the Strip. It's been closed since Sept. 8.

"We hope to have the system up as quickly as possible, as long as it can be operated safely," said Todd Walker, spokesman for the monorail company. But he gave no timeline and said the company could weather an extended shutdown. The monorail was used by about 27,000 people a day after it opened July 15; daily fare revenue was about $80,000.

The monorail shut down Sept. 1 to 6 after a wheel fell off the train. It closed again Sept. 8, Walker said, after a 1-pound washer dropped from the drivetrain onto the power rail. No one was injured in either incident. For updates, go to

Law will limit

tracking of

rental cars

A law that restricts rental-car companies' use of electronic tracking equipment in vehicles will take effect Jan. 1 in California.

The systems, which use global positioning system receivers, have been the target of lawsuits by customers who were fined by car-rental companies for speeding or taking cars out of state based on, customers said, undisclosed monitoring.

The new law forbids rental companies from obtaining or using car-tracking information except for specific purposes, such as finding a missing vehicle or providing roadside assistance. Fines or surcharges based on such data will be banned.

Unlike an earlier version of the bill, AB 2840 in its final form does not require rental outlets to tell customers that a car has tracking equipment.

-- Jane Engle

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