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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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An open letter to Joseph Boardman

Dear Mr. Boardman,

Now that you have been given an extra two years, here's some advice for you: Amtrak needs to have a concrete plan for future routes and should display such routes on its system map. Ridership is up and more people are traveling but seats are sold out and there's a serious lack of equipment. 

What is your focus? That is, will you continue to provide lip service to routes outside of the Northeast, Wolverine, and Lincoln corridors? If the NEC is truly your future, Amtrak should go to Congress, the FRA, and the STB to put some of your other routes up for bidding.

Speaking of other operators, Mr. Boardman, you yourself know that other passenger entities are waiting in the wings to outbid Amtrak on existing and future routes. Rather than relying on your congressional buddies to unfairly tilt the playing field in your company's favor, provide Congress, the states, President Obama, and riders compelling reasons why Amtrak is better than AIPRO members, Virgin, and other carriers.

The next time you conduct a route study, call the host railroads on their bluff, and for goodness sake, don't throw your own employees under the bus when the going gets tough. There is no reason why the Cardinal shouldn't be a daily train. There is no reason why Panhandle residents should be without train service for almost eight years now. Speaking of the Sunset Limited, either restore the eastern link or allow another operator to conduct daily service between New Orleans and Orlando because the drama has dragged on long enough. When it comes to the Southwest Chief, fight to keep the train on its current route between Newton, KS and Gallup, NM.



Sincerely,



The Rail Enthusiast

Tackling the Headlines 53

Feds redlight XpressWest loan

Take: It now looks as though the company will either have to raise the money on its own or look elsewhere for the remaining funds.

Bidders for Scottish sleeper service

Contrary to what I feared last year, there is still interest in the service. Current holder First Group is facing a challenge from DB-owned Arriva and Australian-based Serco.

Take: This is great, and it would be nice if all three operators could open up shop in this country because they might be able to provide expanded overnight service that is sorely lacking.

Eau Clare residents remember train service

Take: I had no idea that the CNW ended service along the route that soon. It's no wonder that the city's residents took the MNDOT's decision to skip Eau Clare as a part of the planned Chicago-St. Paul Regional HSR route so hard over 1 1/2 years ago while the WIDOT just stood by. But then, again, what to do when your own governor refuses to think beyond the Hiawathas?

Unions picketing Amtrak Board member

Take: Just about the only thing that I know is that Amtrak employees were without a contract from 1999 to 2008. Negotiating for three years? What kind of contract was signed in the first place? This conflict had better not lead to a strike. The idea that Amtrak wants to destroy its unions is just laughable.

Planning the next leg of SEHSR is (finally) underway

In late spring, hearings were held to determine the routing for the Charlotte Atlanta leg of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.

Take: I am very partial to the NS option merely because the existing Crescent route is a template that can be used to provide corridor service later on. Also, a daytime New York-Atlanta route as well as various other long distance branches serving Montgomery, Mobile, Dallas, and Los Angeles could give Upstate South Carolinans a plethora of options. Both the I-85 and the Greenfield options would be useful for future Express service. The CSX Augusta option is better off with conventional SC-GA and long distance services.