Washington, DC - A dramatic new plan and new direction to bring competition to high-speed and intercity passenger rail service across the country, including the nation's Northeast Corridor, was presented today during a national briefing by Committee leaders.
U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, presented their new direction for U.S. passenger rail service to national and state transportation officials and passenger rail stakeholders. The Mica/Shuster initiative is called the "Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act."
"After 40 years of costly and wasteful Soviet-style operations under Amtrak, this proposal encourages private sector investment and operations in U.S. passenger rail service," Mica said. "Competition in high-speed and intercity passenger rail will cut taxpayer subsidies, improve service, and bring our nation into the 21st century of passenger rail transportation.
"Our plan will create jobs by finally bringing real high-speed rail to the one region of the country where it makes the most sense - the Northeast Corridor - and do so in a dramatically shorter time than Amtrak's 30-year plan, at a fraction of their proposed $117 billion cost," Mica said.
"Amtrak has repeatedly bungled development and operations in the Northeast Corridor, and their new long-term, expensive plan to try to improve the corridor is simply unacceptable," Mica continued. "The nation cannot afford to continue throwing money away on this highly subsidized, ineffective disaster.
"It is time for a new direction. Around the world, other nations and the private sector have successfully competed to develop high-speed and passenger rail service," Mica said. "There is no reason we cannot do the same in our most densely populated and congested region. By giving the private sector the opportunity to bring its resources and expertise to the table, we can lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve high-speed and intercity passenger rail service across the country."
The Mica/Shuster proposal will also give states greater control and authority over their intercity passenger rail services, currently operated by Amtrak. Ridership on state-supported routes has increased significantly over the last 15 years, and incentivizing private sector competition for rail services on these routes will ensure states and taxpayers get the best possible deal and the best possible service. The initiative will also open up other Amtrak long-distance money-losing routes to competition, allowing the private sector the opportunity to bid on any intercity route and potentially improve service.
"It is time to deregulate America's passenger rail system, and give intercity passenger rail the same opportunity for success that the freight rail and commercial truck industry have benefited from" Shuster said. "We must look for more effective and innovative approaches to providing modern and efficient passenger rail service by focusing on projects that make sense, leveraging private sector investment, increasing competition, and opening the door to public-private partnerships.
"Both around the world and right here in the United States we have seen that competition works," Shuster continued. "When Virgin Rail began operating the West Coast Line in Britain, the company doubled the corridor's ridership in six years and turned a profit. Here at home, in an open bid process, Veolia won over Amtrak for Florida's Tri-Rail South commuter line at $97 million to Amtrak's $162 million. Success and cost savings like this can happen here if we end the Amtrak monopoly on intercity passenger rail and open it to competition. Done right, what in the past has been a liability can become an asset, generating jobs, economic development, and value for hardworking taxpayers."