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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published a final rule for a new pilot program that would seek competitive bids from "eligible petitioners" to replace Amtrak as the operator of up to three long-distance routes.The rules fall under a provision of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that requires the FRA to implement the pilot program.Published in the Federal Register last month, the final rule takes effect Sept. 5 and establishes a petition, notification and bid process by which the FRA will evaluate and select bids to provide passenger-rail service over particular long-distance routes.The rule also establishes deadlines for filing petitions and bids and the execution of contracts with winning bidders.Under the FAST Act, an entity may be an "eligible petitioner" for the pilot program only if it owns the relevant rail infrastructure on the route or has a "written agreement" with the rail infrastructure owner. Additionally, a winning bidder who doesn't own the infrastructure must obtain from the owner a written agreement that governs access issues.
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