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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 3

SNCF's mea culpa
After months of ducking the press, SNCF was finally forced to apologize for its role in the Holocaust last month. Various people on this side of the Atlantic had sued the operator for shipping Jews to Nazi death camps. The move now allows SNCF to bid on HSR routes in Florida and California, even though some groups are still pushing for full-scale reparations.

On the high speed rail front, this means that Amtrak is back in the running for the Tampa-Orlando route since it and the French carrier are part of the same group with Becthel and the operating rights are anybody's to win. Out west, the company is still in the running for the San Francisco-Los Angeles route but may find itself greatly outmanned by the likes of the Chinese and Japan's JR East, who have promised to throw money at the state in order to operate the 800-mile route. As a result, SNCF may have to build Express routes in other areas of the country like the Midwest or Texas--areas that either got stimulus money for Regional HSR or didn't get money at all.

Congress
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the GOP is doing its best to keep America addicted to oil. The less said, the better.

Florida quandary
Down in the Sunshine State's capital, Governor Rick Scott has put both Sunrail, the commuter rail line that will serve Orlando and the surrounding area, and the state's high speed rail project on hold. It now seems that the new governor may be in the pockets of the highway lobby.

He wants for the private companies to pay for the entire HSR route even though Florida is supposed to pay for 10 percent of it. As for Sunrail, it's anybody's guess as to why the governor is putting that project on hold. Sunrail has been delayed long enough, and it's time for that train to get rolling. After all, Sunrail could be the kind of thing that leads to conventional corridor service that will someday feed into the Amtrak and HSR networks.

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