Can Amtrak evolve into something more?

September 7, 2009

This analysis of Amtrak is worth reading in full. But I like this paragraph in particular:

Even though the American freight-train business has enjoyed a renaissance in the last twenty years — companies like the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and CSX are admirable for their competitive spirit and financial results — I am skeptical that Amtrak is the company that can lead the way to the re-birth of U.S. passenger service. Freight, let’s remember, only flourished when Conrail was privatized and the industry deregulated.

To be clear, the $8 billion appropriated for high-speed corridor service has yet to be earmarked, and is best understood as discretionary funding that can be doled out to the states, if not to loyal unions. For his part, Senate majority leader Harry Reid hopes to open a drawbridge to fund high-speed rail service between Anaheim and Las Vegas.

Somehow, it is hard to imagine that the U.S. can restore its economic prosperity by rushing heavy rollers to the blackjack tables in Vegas.


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That is incorrect.

Conrail flourished and THEN was privatized (in the largest IPO in history) in 1987. It did so because of regulation changes (not flat-out deregulation) and lots of capital assistance.

I still don’t understand why people think AMTRAK is going to be a money maker. It’s not. It’s never going to be. But then again, neither is the interstate highway system, and people don’t take issue with that.

Posted by Ed Kapuscinski | Report as abusive

Amtrak is definitely not the entity to make 21st Century rail service viable, but that doesn’t mean that high speed rail service can’t happen. Joseph Vranich is a former Amtrak employee who turned against Amtrak because he feels that it is a hindrance against the types of rail service that America needs. His book “Derailed” has endorsements from members of the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute.

Posted by robert | Report as abusive