“This legislation is a lifeline to a dying railroad company. Congress has postponed saving Amtrak long enough. It’s time to act,” Transportation Secretary Mineta said.
The Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act, as it is called, transitions Amtrak into a purely operating company. According to the DOT posting, it creates a federal-state partnership to support passenger rail, introduce market-based competition to the system and set up an inter-state compact to maintain the heavily used Northeast Corridor service.
Under the legislation, Amtrak will no longer carry the burden of maintaining tracks, stations and other infrastructure. Amtrak will have the ability to be an operating company, focused solely on running trains safely and on time. Regional, state or local authorities will be empowered to make decisions about service, planning where it is and what best meets local transportation needs, as well as ensure rail operators are providing a reliable, efficient and cost effective service.
Beginning in 1997, Amtrak offered freight service, supposedly to earn revenue. But the agency dropped the service in 2002, admitting a $7 million loss.
According to the DOT, the proposed legislation provides an opportunity for “serious dialogue” on Amtrak.