Transportation leaders propose new direction for high-speed rail
“Amtrak’s ‘Vision Plan’ for high speed rail in the NEC lacks one important ingredient: vision,” Shuster said. “We’ve tried it Amtrak’s way without success for nearly 40 years, and it’s time to go down a new path and inject private sector competition.
It is time to deregulate America’s passenger rail system and the Northeast Corridor presents the best place to start with private investment and market-based ideas.
“I think it’s time for some new thinking to improve our passenger rail service. Our hearing showcased some international success stories that can be applied here at home,” Shuster continued. “I find it interesting that those who champion Amtrak’s passenger rail service are also afraid of a little competition. If Amtrak really is superior it would wipe the floor with private sector competitors in a fair and open process and put the issue of competition to rest once and for all.”
At the hearing, Mica highlighted an example of profitable private sector rail operations in Great Britain’s Virgin Rail, which doubled its ridership in six years, saw employment increase from 2,800 to 3,500, and has returned to the government an annual payment of $244 million in addition to $81 million in company profit. Witnesses provided additional examples of successful public-private partnerships in other countries.
Witnesses also discussed how to tap the vast potential for development in and around high-speed rail stations.
Summary of the Mica/Shuster Northeast Corridor Proposal:
Deregulating Passenger Rail in America’s Most Densely Populated Region
The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is home to 20 percent of our nation’s population and the poster child for crippling highway and aviation congestion. After trying Amtrak’s way for 40 years without success, it is time to bring the private sector and competition to the table.
Instead of throwing more and more taxpayer dollars at the program, the Mica/Shuster plan does more with less – by leveraging private sector investment, increasing competition, and opening the door to public private partnerships we can finally bring true high-speed rail to the NEC, and in half the time and at significantly less cost.
The Mica and Shuster proposal is being developed according to the following principles:
Ending the Amtrak Monopoly
• Separates the NEC from Amtrak, spinning it off as a separate business unit
• Transfers the title for the NEC to a separate entity
Bringing Competition and the Private Sector to the Table
• Requires a competitive bidding process for the NEC
• Establishes performance standards for true high speed rail with a requirement for service in less than 2 hours between Washington, DC and New York City
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