Turn Amtrak back to the freight railroads?

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Superliner Diner

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2002
Messages
1,055
Column in Railway Age, October 2005:

It is time to “TTX” Amtrak-to sell Amtrak back to the freight railroads much as TTX is owned by the major carriers using its pooled freight cars.
Complete column is here.
 
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guest_jeffw

Guest
I still don't understand what Amtrak existing has to do with preventing anyone else from running trains. There's a billion routes that Amtrak isn't serving, or even ones that are being served, you can have different schedules, or even different and better equipment. I don't see how Amtrak being around is holding anything up. Even if they did scale the system back to just the NEC, they would still complain it's holding up private enterprise!

I'd have no problem with some states adding service, Washington, NC, Cali, etc. More should really. And I'd love for a Richard Branson type person to come in and try to do his thing, even though Bush, Jeb said no. But that's just the hypocracy.

But maybe it's because I'm not living somewhere like Chicago which has trains going most everywhere, but I am still not buying it or getting it. Let's get these High-speed rail routes financed first, after 30 years of waiting, then we'll discuss Amtrak.

Maybe it's time for me to register here offically.
 

Viewliner

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2002
Messages
2,662
Interesting perspective to say the least. It's an interesting proposal, but it just doesn't seem realisitic. It would add more of a burden on Freight railroads and not eliminate the need for funding, in fact it might increase it. It would be problematic to break up the unity of a single national system, and create inconsitency if say you had BNSF vs. CSX running their trains as reliably as they do with Amtrak's now. Plus it's more of a complex situation where Amtrak owns its track...does Amtrak remain in existance for those portions of the nation or do the commuter railroads/some new entity take over?
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2003
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Great plan....now if one or more of the freight railroads steps up to the plate and presents their proposal to Congress to take over Amtrak then we can start discussions on how to pass ownership. But wait, I hear nothing but silence from the CSX/BNSF/UP/NS group. Why? THEY DON'T WANT TO OPERATE PASSENGER SERVICE. It's foolhardy at this point to think of dismantling Amtrak until the alternative has been suggested by the freight railroads themselves. Think we'll put together a new passenger service system months after Amtrak stops service? Guess again, America.
 

battalion51

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2002
Messages
7,193
As much as it seems like a stretch, it makes sense. If a national rail system is ever going to be run reliably it has to have one of two things, dedicated passenger only tracks, or the backing of the freight railroad it runs over. Now comparing TTX to Amtrak is a bit of stretch, but the analogy is correct.

The participating railroads pool resources to create a company for which they are financially repsonsible for the portion they run. It would be an interesting configuration but it could be done. Some traditional things would have to go out the window though. I personally think you would see a VIA esque model where there is a head end crew that is responsible for the safe movement of the train, and then a crew on the rear solely focused on the passengers. The head end crew would be provided by the host railroad, while the on board crew works for Amtrak. It all makes sense, it's a stretch for this to happen, but someone just has to step up to the plate and make it happen.

As for what to do with the NEC it would seem as though ownership should either be transferred to the Commuter railroad that runs over that section of the corridor, or it should be sold to NS or CSX, either scenario would have to come at a price.
 

Sam Damon

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 9, 2005
Messages
990
Certainly an interesting perspective, to say the least. The most telling comment is from the NS CEO, who by merely mentioning it, gives the idea credence.

We're still a long way from such deals, though. Reading between the lines, I get the impression the railroads would only run passenger trains if public cash comes to rebuild the capacity they ripped up in the 1980s and 90s.

Witness: the ex-PRR Panhandle line; the ex-B&O Parkersburg-Cincinnati line; perhaps even the ex-DL&W line west of Port Jervis.
 

battalion51

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2002
Messages
7,193
Sam Damon said:
We're still a long way from such deals, though. Reading between the lines, I get the impression the railroads would only run passenger trains if public cash comes to rebuild the capacity they ripped up in the 1980s and 90s.
Witness: the ex-PRR Panhandle line; the ex-B&O Parkersburg-Cincinnati line; perhaps even the ex-DL&W line west of Port Jervis.
There'd probably have to be some sort of tax rebate or reimbursement for those tracks to go back down, as well as financing for the capital cost. One of the biggest reasons why tracks come up is because of the expensive property taxes on them, which the railroads aren't anxious to pay.
 

Sam Damon

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 9, 2005
Messages
990
battalion51 said:
There'd probably have to be some sort of tax rebate or reimbursement for those tracks to go back down, as well as financing for the capital cost. One of the biggest reasons why tracks come up is because of the expensive property taxes on them, which the railroads aren't anxious to pay.
Uhh, yes.

The high cost of capital is why some of the brighter bulbs at Class I railroads are learning the meaning of the words "public-private partnership."

TIF laws may also come into larger play; it only makes sense.
 

Miami Joe

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 22, 2002
Messages
420
It's only my opinion, so here's one from a 20 yr RR worker! :lol:

Unless our government decides to fund a national passenger railroad properly for the next 10-20 yrs, cross-country passenger rail will cease to exist.

Passenger rail was abandoned in the late 60's, because it was not as profitable as freight. In the 35 yrs that Amtrak has been running, no company has asked for it's passenger cars back to resume service and most of them ignore the monetary "incentives" to allow Amtrak to maintain OTP on its tracks!

The only portion of Amtrak that is going to be retained is the NEC! The current proposal is for the federal government to claim the NEC as federal property and contract the operations and maintenance to outside vendors like Herzog. Usually these companies make low bids for their services, but recoup money on yearly cost overuns that are covered by the train company.

On LDT's, consider this.

Anyone who decides to bid on an LDT will also inherit the rolling stock used on that route. The majority of the cars range in age of 25 yrs for coaches and the food service from 45-55 yrs old. With no US car manufacturers with real construction experience, I don't see any new cars in the future.

From what I've seen, the only companies coming forward to suggest they would bid for Amtrak routes are companies that have never operated a RR. They are individuals or consortiums that will set up operations after they are awarded the contracts.

British rail had 46 vendors that provided everything needed to run passenger rail while owned by the government. After privitization and years of accidents and neglect, the government had to step in and take back control of its rail system.

Not only did the government have to cover all debts of the contractor and claims from accident victims, they found out that the vendor list had grown to 240-270 vendors and had to cover their claims too!

So, I say again!!!!

Show me a passenger rail or mass transit system anywhere in the world that covers its costs, much less make a profit!

MJ B)
 

AmtrakLoverAndHater

Train Attendant
Joined
Aug 24, 2005
Messages
63
Railroads receive hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers money, the least they can do is work diligently to make train travel as efficient as possible
 
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Guest_Amtrak OBS Employee

Guest
Miami Joe said:
It's only my opinion, so here's one from a 20 yr RR worker! :lol:
Unless our government decides to fund a national passenger railroad properly for the next 10-20 yrs, cross-country passenger rail will cease to exist.

Passenger rail was abandoned in the late 60's, because it was not as profitable as freight. In the 35 yrs that Amtrak has been running, no company has asked for it's passenger cars back to resume service and most of them ignore the monetary "incentives" to allow Amtrak to maintain OTP on its tracks!

The only portion of Amtrak that is going to be retained is the NEC! The current proposal is for the federal government to claim the NEC as federal property and contract the operations and maintenance to outside vendors like Herzog. Usually these companies make low bids for their services, but recoup money on yearly cost overuns that are covered by the train company.

On LDT's, consider this.

Anyone who decides to bid on an LDT will also inherit the rolling stock used on that route. The majority of the cars range in age of 25 yrs for coaches and the food service from 45-55 yrs old. With no US car manufacturers with real construction experience, I don't see any new cars in the future.

From what I've seen, the only companies coming forward to suggest they would bid for Amtrak routes are companies that have never operated a RR. They are individuals or consortiums that will set up operations after they are awarded the contracts.

British rail had 46 vendors that provided everything needed to run passenger rail while owned by the government. After privitization and years of accidents and neglect, the government had to step in and take back control of its rail system.

Not only did the government have to cover all debts of the contractor and claims from accident victims, they found out that the vendor list had grown to 240-270 vendors and had to cover their claims too!

So, I say again!!!!

Show me a passenger rail or mass transit system anywhere in the world that covers its costs, much less make a profit!

MJ B)
Very well said, Joe! You beat me to it! OBS... ;) :D
 
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