Yesterday, the government-subsidized rail service announced it was expanding its network in 21 states and doubling the number of shipping lanes for mail and express business.
Amtrak's Network Growth Strategy is built on a network of feeder routes that, much like the airlines, are connected at major hubs, such as Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth. This network will offer passengers not only more attractive travel options, but also will provide Amtrak's mail and express customers twice as many shipping lanes than currently exist today in partnership with the freight railroads. (Express is the shipment of time-sensitive goods on Amtrak trains, a market that is currently served by trucks.)
Pending agreements with the freight railroads, commuter authorities and other partners, ridership on the routes covered in the phase one analysis will increase by 7%; 11 routes will be expanded to serve additional markets; and, the number of trains operating weekly will be increased on three routes. Amtrak will activate 50 passenger cars and 45 locomotives, as well as 4,000 mail and express cars as part of the initial phase.
Amtrak believes these initiatives will allow it to become operationally self-sufficient by 2003, as mandated by Congress.
One of Amtrak's toughest critics, however, was skeptical that hauling freight was the key to Amtrak's self sufficiency. Joseph Vranich, who previously worked to found Amtrak and is now a member of the Amtrak Reform Council, said there is no proof that freight will improve its finances. "Amtrak has refused to provide the Amtrak Reform Council an accounting of profits and losses regarding freight."
See Amtrak Gets Into Freight Business," 1/27/1999, and "Amtrak To Add Refrigerated Freight," 11/18/1999.