Rather than monopolizing their respective regions, the southern railroads and the coastal titans join forces to keep the rivalry going
Point of Departure
Southern and SAL merge into Southern & Seaboard while the ACL and N&W become the Norfolk Coast Line. Both merged entities operate a handful of trains during rail's dark days. North Carolina's subsidization of the Carolinian (Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh Semart Street-Henderson-Petersburg-Richmond Main Street [S&S returned to Main Street in 1971, leaving NCL at Broad Street]-Washington) leads to a networked Southeastern Rail System by 2010 and serves as the template for how states provide intercity corridors. Virginia's subsidizes routes with both the S&S and the NCL. Both railroads own 50% of the RF&P when that railroad decides to hang it up in 1991.
Atlantic Southern and Seaboard & Western are the merged railroads. The Atlantic Southern builds a line parallel to I-95 when the Seaboard & Western buys the RF&P. Both the ASR and the S&W stay out of Amtrak and produce long distance corridors via their redevelopment plans.
Both merged railroads continue to be competitive with each other in Florida--and there are no track abandonments or reductions that affect passenger traffic. However, the FL DOT was a bit upset with the railroads in the 1990s because there weren't enough day trains. A compromise was worked out in 1996 to provide corridor service to fill in the missing gaps.
The Chessie System is absorbed into Conrail in 1990, resulting in three Class I railroads in the Eastern U.S. today.
Today’s Likely Outcome
Amtrak is reduced to one route in Virginia--a daily New York-Chicago Cardinal--and has no presence in Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas due to the efficiency and commitment of the railroads. The FL DOT picked up the tab for Sunset East route after Hurricane Katrina. Herzog worked out a deal to operate the service. As for high speed service in Florida, it is never brought up after the Florida Rail System trains began operation in late 1997.