The U.S. passenger rail system, Amtrak, says it is headed toward another possible shutdown after a congressional sub-committee decided to approve only a fraction of the money it says is needed to operate next year.

A House sub-committee approved only $580 million of the $1.8 billion Amtrak requested for its 2004 budget. Amtrak President David Gunn says the rail system needs $460 million just to keep the Northeast Corridor trains (from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts) running in the next fiscal year, which begins in October.

The sub-committee's decision is only the beginning of the budgetary process, but sets the stage for a fight over how much should be done to keep the rail system going.

Last year, Amtrak narrowly avoided its first total shutdown because of budget shortfalls.

A congressionally-appointed panel recommended last year that Amtrak be broken up into pieces and sold to private contractors to make it profitable.

The passenger rail system was formed in 1971, and currently services 46 of the 50 states.