• Can we get the freight railroads to operate passenger trains again?

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by Tadman
 
It's a good question but also a bit of an over-simplification. The agreement could provide for more money related to better timekeeping. You could also have various innovations that result in better equipment or stations that hold more passengers or use equipment better. A revenue share based on ridership increases could also be on the table. There are so many different variables that could be looked at here.

In my opinion the marketing function should be split. In Britain you can buy tickets through the national network or the independent named providers.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
Tadman wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:32 am In practice, the government agency is awful at innovating and very inefficient. The government is not good at running a business.
One exception: Uncle Sam made profits off the nationalized freight lines of the Northeast in the early-mid 80s.

Over on the UK, some might recall what a disaster British Leyland turned into at that same time (cars, trucks, even rail-buses (diesel rail cars). Even car builder UTDC was a crown corporation of the Government of Ontario.

Even overhaul jobs seem better done when outshopped to a private contractor vs. in-house. NYCT's GOH program in the late 80s showed MK's Hornell shop turned out better rebuilds than NYCT in-house in Coney Island.
  by wigwagfan
 
David Benton wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:38 am Sounds like your just adding layers for the sake of it . I can't see it been more efficient .
It's not vertical. It's horizontal.

To the passenger, it's not a layer, but rather separate organizations that work together for a common cause. The passenger/customer only sees one organization, whether it's "Amtrak" (which sells the Coach ticket) or "Pullman" (which sells the sleeping/first class ticket). When they board, and on-board, they deal exclusively with said organization.

The incentive to improve service is simple, because each of these organizations can only provide better service to their specific customer in order to earn more money. The host railroad can only provide a more reliable, faster schedule to "Amtrak" and "Pullman" for better payments. "Amtrak" and "Pullman" can only provide better service to its own customers. "Fred Harvey" can only provide better food. Right now, the current Amtrak model provides absolutely zero incentive to improve, because they can blame poor service on external factors (which may or may not even be true). Train is late? Blame the railroad. Poor equipment? Blame Congress. Fares too high? Blame the Unions. Never is the answer "We have to simply provide a better service." It's always a blame game, and the result is nothing gets done. And when there is blame to go around - there's absolutely no accountability. The railroads get paid the same whether the train is 10 minutes early or ten days late. Congress doesn't care. The Unions only have their employees' interests at hand. And Amtrak - everything is rainbows and unicorns to themselves.
  by eolesen
 
R36 Combine Coach wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:24 pm
Tadman wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:32 am In practice, the government agency is awful at innovating and very inefficient. The government is not good at running a business.
One exception: Uncle Sam made profits off the nationalized freight lines of the Northeast in the early-mid 80s.
Yeah, that's a stretch. They turned a profit because regulations were dropped. Conrail was a disaster before Staggers Act let them rationalize the network and abandon the loss leaders... Amtrak still can't cancel services that lose money...

Also note that the government sold its interest less than 10 years after it stepped in, about two years after Staggers was enacted.
  by Tadman
 
That is a part of the story that was emphasized in Rush Loving's book. Most of us just assumed that PC was folded into Conrail and Conrail straightened it out and ran profitably for 20 years until NS and CSX split it up.

In reality, the first five years of Conrail lost boatloads of money and it wasn't until they tried to straighten it out a few times under the prior regulatory scheme that the gov't realized there was no way to make it work. Thus deregulation and THEN a righted ship.
  by Tadman
 
David Benton wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:04 am so if the train is running late , wh o does the sleeper passenger complain too ?
If a plane is running late, who does one complain to? Boeing? O'Hare airport? City of Chicago? FAA? Skychef catering? Or the airline one bought the ticket from?
  by west point
 
All well and good. However please explain how a class 1 will be able to avoid the liability issue ? Have not heard if CSX has finally been able to get away from any liability of the Cayce accident ?
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
The contracts between Amtrak and the several roads holding such to operate their trains are bilateral agreements and are not open to public inspection under FOIA.

Now with that being said, "back in my day", the Amended Agreements signed with each road circa '73 called for "no fault". Amtrak, you pay to patch up your equipment, employees, and passengers; Railroad you pay to fix your tracks, lineside structures, as well as patch up your employees and the public.

In the case of Gross Negligence, you can be sure some party has tried to "pierce those shields"; to what extent successful, I know not. But I would think Cayce would rise to that level agsinst CSX, just as I think Du Pont would against Amtrak.
  by David Benton
 
wigwagfan wrote: Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:11 am
David Benton wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:38 am Sounds like your just adding layers for the sake of it . I can't see it been more efficient .
It's not vertical. It's horizontal.

To the passenger, it's not a layer, but rather separate organizations that work together for a common cause. The passenger/customer only sees one organization, whether it's "Amtrak" (which sells the Coach ticket) or "Pullman" (which sells the sleeping/first class ticket). When they board, and on-board, they deal exclusively with said organization.

The incentive to improve service is simple, because each of these organizations can only provide better service to their specific customer in order to earn more money. The host railroad can only provide a more reliable, faster schedule to "Amtrak" and "Pullman" for better payments. "Amtrak" and "Pullman" can only provide better service to its own customers. "Fred Harvey" can only provide better food. Right now, the current Amtrak model provides absolutely zero incentive to improve, because they can blame poor service on external factors (which may or may not even be true). Train is late? Blame the railroad. Poor equipment? Blame Congress. Fares too high? Blame the Unions. Never is the answer "We have to simply provide a better service." It's always a blame game, and the result is nothing gets done. And when there is blame to go around - there's absolutely no accountability. The railroads get paid the same whether the train is 10 minutes early or ten days late. Congress doesn't care. The Unions only have their employees' interests at hand. And Amtrak - everything is rainbows and unicorns to themselves.
The problem is , a private organisation cannot lose money.Your sleeper operator may have to compensate a passenger for a delay , or cancellation of a service. Its probably not their fault the train is running late , so they seek remedy form the train operator . The train operator says its the track operators fault so they seek remedy from the track owner . The track owner may then decide it needs more subsidy to cover such outcomes , and so the end result is the taxpayer pays . as it does now. Except more for lawyers and other private enterprise bureaucrats.
The key problem is the trains will never be profitable , so private enterprise cannot allow some fat to cover problems such as this . They are more efficient in a lot of ways , but they have thier own costs which the government does not. Either way the end result is the taxpayer subsidises the trains.
Now imagine if the food caterer delays the train, they would probably be out of business within the first claim .
In britan , train delays results in hundreds of pounds per minute payment s to the franchises by Network Rail , aka the taxpayer. Meanwhile the happy taxpayer rejoices in the private operators efficiency, ignoring the subsidies paid to the franchises and Network rail exceed those that were paid to British rail. Cos it aint a subsidy if its paid to a private enterprise. Lets call it a tax credit .
  by mtuandrew
 
Privatization advocates are betting that a “nimble” (underregulated) corporation with “motivated” (underpaid) employees and “efficient” (understaffed) operating structure would cost less to American taxpayers in the first few years than would continued Amtrak operation, which is probably true. Also, they are betting that after Amtrak is dead as an operating railroad, neither Congress nor the Department of Transportation would dare resurrect it as a way to keep private companies honest.

Meanwhile, Amtrak advocates rightly point out that when unfettered and properly capitalized, government-run systems can and do make money - and that they can also bid internationally to run other systems, not just within their own country. That’s politically unlikely in America’s capitalist structure, where Federal institutions such as the Postal Service are routinely kneecapped when they threaten to become profitable.
  by markhb
 
Paying the host railroads more for preferential dispatching is within the abilities of Congress to achieve under the current system. As a rider of the Downeaster, I can vouch for the success of privatising the cafe service, but that's apparently in jeopardy in Congress due to the regular system's unions trying to disallow such arrangements.
But private enterprise only innovates when there is competitive pressure to do so, and with what's left of our passenger infrastructure any given route will wind up being a monopoly; there aren't enough rail passengers to justify both the Lake Shore and Broadway running NYC- Chicago, for instance.
  by urr304
 
I really do not undersatnd why you would want to?

Let us just review,50 years ago, the railroads were in a hurry to get out of the passenger business, those that could get out before so their routes would not be considered got out by 1970 [i.e. E-L].
  by John_Perkowski
 
To make the Class Is interested in line haul passenger again will demand a subsidy covering every damn cent of operating and overhead cost.
Every
Damn
Cent
  by west point
 
John_Perkowski wrote: Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:09 pm To make the Class Is interested in line haul passenger again will demand a subsidy covering every damn cent of operating and overhead cost.
Every
Damn
Cent
And then they would want an amount equal to their OR desires. That would be at least 60%more .
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