$66 billion for Amtrak

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Willbridge

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Does anyone know if any European countries require their local governments to pay for or subsidize the shorter distance trains operated by the central government? Anyone have their version of the 700 mile rule (accounting for a proportional country size (e.g. Luxembourg having a 700 meter rule?) Do the French make their Regions pay? The Swiss make their Cantons pay?
I hope to see some specific nations described. Here's a generalization.

Under the EU there are various regional arrangements now and regional authorities in some places have the right to contract for service either with the legacy operator or with private contractors (see photos). The regional authorities have revenue sharing from the national governments.

There are at least two issues in hindsight that do not seem to have been anticipated.
  1. The legacy carriers set up incorporated subsidiaries that can win service contracts in their home countries and in other countries. This disappoints people who want to break up the legacy carriers.
  2. As in North America, if your small city is midway between two regions you may have mediocre service (see photo). Or, as in some Northeast Corridor points, you may get commuter service to the regional hub, but few through intercity rides into the territory of the next hub (see North Philadelphia).
So far, the best feature of this change is that the legacy trip planning software is required to carry the regional and other privatized service. So, Nightjet or FlixTrain or commuter trains come up in searches, although due to differing tariff structures one may not be able to get price quotes or bookings. It's more complicated to implement with separate managements, but efforts continue to coordinate connections with clock-pattern meets (takt in German).

Regional contract services can include marketing. In 2005 photo the Hamburg<>Bremen service advertises clock headways (takt). Previously, Hamburg<>Bremen was dominated by long-distance trains, resulting in ragged headways for regional travel.

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Alsace regional label on SNCF equipment in 2018 even includes the local dialect.

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Altenbeken in 2002 was sort of a forgotten summit between regions.

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In 2014 even an HO-scale model railway is programmed for timed transfer connections in Germany. That is not always achieved in real life but it's a goal.

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acelafan

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Can someone explain how come the USA, supposedly a very super country. but when it comes to trains we are about 100 years old??
There are lots of lobbyists in the US, and I would bet that the air/truck/auto ones are far more powerful than those representing rail interests. Follow the money...
 

MARC Rider

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There are lots of lobbyists in the US, and I would bet that the air/truck/auto ones are far more powerful than those representing rail interests. Follow the money...
Private businesses can make financial contributions to the re-election campaigns of elected officials. Nearly all passenger rail services are run by public agencies that can't do that. Guess who has the ear of the elected officials? I'm amazed, actually, that there's as much support for passenger rail from our elected officials as there is.

What's a little weird is that one might think that the private class 1 railroads (who can make political contributions) might want to have the government buy out their trackage so they are relieved of the responsibility of the overhead expenses inherent in an industry like railroading. They would then operate their trains on public tracks in a manner similar to that of the trucking companies and airlines who use publicly owned roads, airports, and air traffic control systems, and might find it easier to be profitable. However, I've never seen the AAR advocate such a thing. I wonder how Congress would react if they did.
 

neroden

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What's a little weird is that one might think that the private class 1 railroads (who can make political contributions) might want to have the government buy out their trackage so they are relieved of the responsibility of the overhead expenses inherent in an industry like railroading. They would then operate their trains on public tracks in a manner similar to that of the trucking companies and airlines who use publicly owned roads, airports, and air traffic control systems, and might find it easier to be profitable. However, I've never seen the AAR advocate such a thing. I wonder how Congress would react if they did.
Yeah, Moorman backed it when he was at NS but none of the other "Freight rail" execs have
 

Willbridge

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Something that rail line owners need to consider is the unanticipated revenues from other utilities. SPrint cables, for example, have followed rail ROW's, as have pipelines and power lines. It would be possible, but contentious, to price these present and future into a sale to the government.

Also, government ownership of the entire network would tend to open the way to 'open access' which the companies dread. It's one of the issues that creeps them out about Amtrak. Another concern is maintenance levels, which has been a notorious issue in the UK privatisation schemes.

All of these issues could be worked out but it's easier to just say "no!"

[Interurbans, of course, were noted for their power line ROW's, sometimes leased by a sister power company. Here's the Class II Oregon Electric Railway's line south of Wilsonville with a power line deal worked out with an unrelated utility.]

P1050799.JPG
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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Can someone explain how come the USA, supposedly a very super country. but when it comes to trains we are about 100 years old??
100 years ago we probably had the best railway system in the world. In the US we don't always come up with the ideas first but when we see a good idea we run with it. When the UK invented railways we immediately saw it as a way to open up the vast distances in our country. The same thing happened with the automobile. It was particularly appealing to a people with a self concept of rugged individualism and wanting the freedom to go where we want when we want.

The European experience was different partly due to more involvement by governments early on and a more conservative approach to things so that they moved more slowly on transitioning to auto travel for example. Some countries did follow the lead of the US to some extent; I am thinking of the UK and Ireland which neglected their rail systems, then in the UK you had the privitization fiasco and they are only now trying to play catch-up.

Of course money and political influence always plays a part once a particular mode gets the upper hand. Read about how hard it was initially to get a national road system started. Now we are realizing for many reasons we need to move to a more balanced approach but it will just take time.
 

neroden

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Something that rail line owners need to consider is the unanticipated revenues from other utilities. SPrint cables, for example, have followed rail ROW's, as have pipelines and power lines. It would be possible, but contentious, to price these present and future into a sale to the government.
Yeah, it's not a big deal. They might also retain the utility rights, that's been done too

Also, government ownership of the entire network would tend to open the way to 'open access' which the companies dread. It's one of the issues that creeps them out about Amtrak.
I think this "empire building" attitude -- hostility to open access -- is the main obstacle.

I don't think the Class I freight railroads actually get any benefit from their current restricted access *at all* -- if they try to do monopoly pricing, everyone just switches to trucks -- and they already have run-through trains from other Class Is, routinely, now, because it's more profitable to do it that way. But the management, trapped in a 19th-century mentality, has not yet realized that open access is just fine for them (excepting Moorman).

Of course, you can nationalize the tracks without providing open access; it is fairly frequent in the US to have one company with "exclusive freight rights" on government-owned tracks. So it really shouldn't be an issue at all.

Another concern is maintenance levels, which has been a notorious issue in the UK privatisation schemes.
US private railroads are notorious for undermaintenance, especially CSX. It's actually one of the main arguments in favor of nationalization.
 

jis

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SPrint afterall was a Southern Pacific subsidiary before it was spun off to sail on its own, because the railroad could not figure out how to make money using it.

The American Railroad management have been competent in one thing for quite a while, which is cashing out on lucrative business subsidiaries and consistently losing market share in the transportation business, while making a bit more money on a progressively smaller piece of the overall transportation pie. And of course shedding tears of pain if anyone points any of the obvious to them. 🤷‍♂️
 

Willbridge

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US private railroads are notorious for under-maintenance, especially CSX. It's actually one of the main arguments in favor of nationalization.
Actually, there was an era of the opposite for profitable companies that could reduce their tax burden by spending money on maintenance. Wall Street thought that was a waste of money and so the rules were changed to eliminate the incentive (I vaguely recall that it had to do with whether maintenance was an operating expense or a capital expense). Prior to that, excursion trains could be safely operated on almost any Western Region branch line.

Enjoying the NP on the Centralia--Gate cut-off in 1968. By then the UP would not permit excursions on branch lines, so I would surmise that the tax rules were changed sometime in the 1960's.

35k on the Centralia - Gate cut-off.jpg
 

neroden

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Actually, there was an era of the opposite for profitable companies that could reduce their tax burden by spending money on maintenance.
Yes, there were some major changes in federal tax law in the 1970s and 1980s. The 1950s tax law was set up to heavily reward R&D and maintenance; the Reagan-era tax law was set up to discourage both.
 

Andrew

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How much of the NEC grants would be reserved for Gateway?

Also, how much total is appropriated for the Capital Investment Grant Program?
 

Willbridge

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Yes, there were some major changes in federal tax law in the 1970s and 1980s. The 1950s tax law was set up to heavily reward R&D and maintenance; the Reagan-era tax law was set up to discourage both.
That makes sense. In the1950's almost everyone was aware that they had just got through WWII and the Korean War with tremendous burdens on a network that took quite a beating.
 

Willbridge

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Here's a 9½-minute interview with Bill Flynn by Bloomberg back on November 10th that outlines his expectations (and the interviewer's). Guess what station is used as a backdrop!

 

GoAmtrak

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Here's a 9½-minute interview with Bill Flynn by Bloomberg back on November 10th that outlines his expectations (and the interviewer's). Guess what station is used as a backdrop!

Thank you for this informative interview. He stands before the Denver Union Station doesn't he? In this interview, it was somewhat too much focus on the Northeast Corridor in my mind. Of course this corridor is the prestige object where connections are the best. It's good to keep this good service on track. But I look more on the expansion of areas completely underserved or not served at all. And those areas in the US are numerous.

Did I hear it correctly that 16 of the 66 billion go to the Amtrak national network? I would have wished more for the national network.


More than once I read competition for those billions has started.
It's gonna be quite interesting which regions in the US receive how much money to expand passenger railway in their states.
For example, here's an article stating Louisville-Indianapolis would have relatively good chances to win this competition for federal money because they would serve two relatively large metropolitan areas (of course they would not be the sole winner):
Infrastructure law could put Louisville on track to lure passenger train service | News | wdrb.com


We already started discussions about which preferences are taken by users. I'm interested in more opinions and preferences about it. Even if its perhaps too early to say how many of those projects (of the 2035 plan) can actually be funded by this money - A quarter? Half? Or more?
 

jis

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Did I hear it correctly that 16 of the 66 billion go to the Amtrak national network? I would have wished more for the national network.
Potentially it is $16 B + $12 B = $28 B for national network. After taking the NEC set aside out of the intercity line, there is $12B left in the intercity line for potential use in the national network. This is usually glossed over in the quick presentations.
 

Willbridge

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Thank you for this informative interview. He stands before the Denver Union Station doesn't he? In this interview, it was somewhat too much focus on the Northeast Corridor in my mind. Of course this corridor is the prestige object where connections are the best. It's good to keep this good service on track. But I look more on the expansion of areas completely underserved or not served at all. And those areas in the US are numerous.

Did I hear it correctly that 16 of the 66 billion go to the Amtrak national network? I would have wished more for the national network.


More than once I read competition for those billions has started.
It's gonna be quite interesting which regions in the US receive how much money to expand passenger railway in their states.
For example, here's an article stating Louisville-Indianapolis would have relatively good chances to win this competition for federal money because they would serve two relatively large metropolitan areas (of course they would not be the sole winner):
Infrastructure law could put Louisville on track to lure passenger train service | News | wdrb.com


We already started discussions about which preferences are taken by users. I'm interested in more opinions and preferences about it. Even if its perhaps too early to say how many of those projects (of the 2035 plan) can actually be funded by this money - A quarter? Half? Or more?
The ultimate outcome of this will depend on the state and regional interests in addition to the federal involvement and degree of interest of the private right-of-way owners. They'll have to consider that this isn't a "permanent" fund like those supported by highway taxes. There can be quite a list of places abandoned by Amtrak for various reasons, so communities need to go through a planning process that determines how important the service will be to them.
 
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