At the inception of ConRail, what were the reasons the federal government had to make ConRail retain the commuter services it had rather than turn them over to say Amtrak?
Conrail took over the operations of the six railroads that were transferred to it. Those operations included several commuter operations. The lesson learned from Penn Central was that Changing Everything On Day One is bad. Maintain the status quo while going about programs of improvement was the order of the day. Amtrak was formed to relieve railroads from the burden of operating intercity passenger trains- runs of over 100 miles or more. Saving commuter trains was not the goal of Amtrak. Amtrak would play a role later as operator for some agenices, but that's it.
Or, for that matter, since ConRail basically took over the roads that were running the highest number of passenger trains to begin with, why wasn't ConRail incorporated with an arm devoted exclusively to the care and advancement of the passenger services it had to keep?
Creating one company to take over the operations of six bankrupt railroads was difficult enough without making another complication with a Commuter Subsidiary. The commuter operations were part of Conrail's operations from Day One- Conrail mechanics repaired locomotives, whether passenger or freight. Car knockers inspected passenger cars and freight cars. Engineers worked passenger trains and freight trains. There was no clear, surgical separation between the two.
Wouldn't that have provided the government a sort of an out to passenger service basically up and down the NEC?
I don't understand what you're asking here.
Let's review: ConRail operated commuter trains in:
- New York (Everything out of Grand Central Terminal)
- Boston (Everything out of South Station)
- New Jersey (CNJ, PRR, NYLB, EL)
- Philadelphia (RDG, PRR, PRSL)
- Chicago (PRR Valpo Local)
- Cleveland (EL to Youngstown)
- PLUS an RDC from Buffalo-Toronto in cooperation with CP (TH&B)
Many of these services were being subsidized by local governments. Some ended for various reasons- the Cleveland train was discontinued 1977, the ex-TH&B RDC came off in 1981 replaced by an Amtrak train, the Atlantic City service ended 1982, and the Valpo Local became Amtrak's "Calumnet" in 1979. Conrail ceased operating the Boston lines in 1982 over a disagreement in funding levels, and Boston & Maine picked up the contract.
That left New York, New Jersey, and Philly. The Northeast Rail Services Act of 1981 authorized Conrail to cease operating commuter trains by Jan. 1, 1983, giving the municipalities two years to come up with a solution. The MTA formed Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. to acquire the lines and equipment and operate the trains out of Grand Central. Many employees of Conrail furloughed over to the new company. Similar processes happened in New Jersey, and Philadelphia. By Jan 1, 1983, Conrail was out of the passenger business.
You couldn't really have one operator for so many cities in one corridor. Commuter services are based on metropolitan terminals, not so much as secondary trains to Amtrak corridor services.
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