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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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tackling the Headlines 85

Politico's coverage of the FRA's Pilot Program hearing

Take: On the private companies' concern that the FRA is rigging the process in Amtrak's favor, it would not surprise me if it is.The FRA has been nothing but vague to this point and has gone out of its way to impose arbitrary barriers on non-Amtrak operators.

TTD to FRA: Amtrak, Not Private Entities, Should Run National Passenger Rail System

TTD Secretary-Treasurer Larry Willis, appearing at the Agency’s public hearing, emphasized that Amtrak and its experienced employees are in the best position to provide inter-city passenger rail - “not private entities that seek to turn a profit by lowering labor costs or cutting and eroding service.”
Take # 1: Tell that to the folks in Britain and continental Europe.
“The idea that a private entity can come in and provide more efficient service at a lower cost than Amtrak simply because it is a private entity is a myth,” Willis said. “Too often, private sector business models in the rail industry contemplate downgrading existing service, avoiding obligations under rail labor statutes, or undercutting collective bargaining agreements. The FRA must ensure that the pilot program shuts the door to this misguided model.”
Take #2: Somebody ought to tell Mr. Willis that Amtrak has already done that with the downgrades to the Silver Star and the City of New Orleans so for him to accuse other operators of downgrading service is laughable and is deflecting Amtrak's deficiencies. For instance after Amtrak lost the Virginia Railway Express contract, it was Keolis that added special events for VRE's riders.

Take #3: As I said in early 2014,

If [the unions] are opposed to non-Amtrak operators, then they are in effect opposed to more jobs.
That is the bottom line. It's Willis and Ed Wytkind who are depriving others of jobs, not the AIPRO members or Ed Ellis, and they are doing so because they are afraid of having to adjust to a world of multiple operators who may in due time provide superior service to Amtrak.

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