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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Mica, Shuster propose transferring NEC ownership to private entity


Two House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders have proposed a plan today to spin off the Northeast Corridor (NEC) from Amtrak and have a private firm develop “true” high-speed rail service along the line.

During a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing held today, committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and railroad subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) unveiled a proposal to transfer Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to a private entity and launch a competitive bidding process that would enable a public-private partnership to design, build, operate, maintain and finance high-speed rail service along the NEC. The chosen firm would complete the project in about 10 years vs. the 30 years Amtrak has proposed in its long-range vision for high-speed rail in the NEC, and do it for a fraction of Amtrak’s $117 billion price tag, Mica and Shuster said.

The pair plan to soon introduce legislation to accompany their proposal. The bill also would establish performance standards for “true” high-speed rail, requiring travel times of less than two hours between Washington, D.C., and New York City, according to a press release. Transferring ownership of the NEC to a private entity would reduce or possibly eliminate the need for federal subsidies, Mica and Shuster said.  

The proposal already has been met with criticism. During the hearing, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO President Edward Wytkind testified that Amtrak actually should receive more funding and support to achieve its long-term vision.

“There’s no high-speed rail system in the world that operates without robust government support. So let’s stop all the tired privatization rhetoric and have a conversation about how to get this done in the real world,” he said.

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More News from 5/26/2011