• 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 Jeff Smith
 
STrRedWolf wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 5:57 am
west point wrote: Tue Jun 23, 2020 10:03 pm Don't forget that CSX wants out of operating MARC Brunswick and Camden line trains .
Wanted. MARC Brunswick/Camden line trains are now operated by Bombardier(nee Alstrom). They're still running on CSX lines, though.
Add UP to the list for METRA.
  by west point
 
Suppose a freight RR might make money operating a passenger operation at a 15% profit. That 85%operating ratio would make their overall OR go from say 60% to 62%. We will never see a freight RR operate a passenger service as long as that RR is subject to the religion of the all mighty OR>
  by eolesen
 
Depends on the line -- if you have a line with light freight traffic, operating passenger service on it might make or break that line's profitability.

How many lines does Amtrak operate on that are marginal for freight revenue? Not too many, but there might be a couple.
  by mtuandrew
 
eolesen wrote: Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:31 am Depends on the line -- if you have a line with light freight traffic, operating passenger service on it might make or break that line's profitability.

How many lines does Amtrak operate on that are marginal for freight revenue? Not too many, but there might be a couple.
The Buckingham Branch comes to mind, but now the track is state-owned so it shouldn’t be as much of an economic issue.
  by Tadman
 
It might be interesting to take the "privatisation/freight-operated trains" clump of ideas and separate them into a few distinct concepts:

1. Subsidizing class 1's to run passenger trains over their tracks
2. Putting Amtrak routes up for bid or franchising them

Under #1, you have a few forks in the road.
a. if we keep today's map, how do we handle trains like CZ where UP an BN are involved? Is there still a silver/blue/red national fleet and brand name?
b. or do we change the map to be mostly single-host routes where there are yellow, blue, black, and dark green passenger fleets with respective branding?
c. do the freights run the passenger trains under their direct auspices or do they use an arm-length subsidiary or joint venture like Dereco or Abellio?

Number 2 has a few questions as well:
a. how do we get the hosts to agree to hosting an Abellio or such passenger train?
b. does the route map stay the same or are TOC's allowed to pick and choose?
c. what happens if a viable new route is found?

Any move toward privatisation should likely have a very good meeting of the minds of legislators, FRA, AAR, Class 1's, and certain states and cities that pay for Amtrak service or feature hubs.

There are a lot more questions, and my above statements should not be construed as an opinion, just an attempt to frame a discussion.
  by Tadman
 
And here is my opinion in a separate post just to make the diff clear.

A. I think subsidizing Class 1's to just pick up their parts of the Amtrak network and operate them is a second place bad idea, second place to Amtrak, which is the first place bad idea. Neither model really incentivizes the carriers to innovate or become more efficient. While Class 1's are very profitable sometimes, they are not nimble and have lots of inertia just like any big company such as GM or Microsoft. A subsidized operation of such big companies has the double whammy of inertia and moral hazard.

B. I do think the breakup of amtrak into a administrating/oversight body plus independent train operating companies (TOC) is a great idea. What the TOC's parentage is could be very open-ended: It could be just a class 1, a joint venture of two railroads, a joint venture of a railroad and bus company or a consumer brand, perhaps an airline in there... I would suggest each interested class 1 team up in a join venture with either a prosperous passenger transport/lodging company (megabus, jet blue, Hilton) and/or a consumer brand, but that's a gut reaction

C. I would suggest a business model that is a modified British approach. TOC's are given some profit motive in order to be incentivized to innovate. Some of the best ideas in US passenger trains have come out of private operators, such as Superliners, Autotrain, Siemens Charger...
  by John_Perkowski
 
I’ve said it before and I say it again.

There is NWIH I want UNion Pacific back in the line haul passenger business. A passenger traffic department means additional locomotives, cars, shops, crews, a back office, and track maintenance for FRA Class Five operations. Those have to be priced into the ticket. Amtrak doesn’t do that, witness their subsidy.

Incentivizing the Class 1 railroads mean regulation. I don’t want that either.


Disclaimer: Long positions in UNP and BH.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
Some freight short lines do run charters and excursions through. Does that affect "profit margin"? For example, Morristown & Erie has generated decent revenue from Polar Express excursions at Whippany since 2016 (when
freight operations are now in retrenchment with several lines now under Dover & Rockaway (a Belvidere &
Delaware affiliate).
  by west point
 
Short lines are not interested in OR but just anything that will drop to the bottom line as profit. Short lines for the most part do not receive that OR god that is a a hall mark of wall street.
  by mtuandrew
 
west point wrote: Sat Jul 25, 2020 7:54 pm Short lines are not interested in OR but just anything that will drop to the bottom line as profit. Short lines for the most part do not receive that OR god that is a a hall mark of wall street.
And that’s one reason you don’t see Genesee & Western operating (or thinking about bidding on) passenger service.
  by Pensyfan19
 
BNSF?

They operate the Metra BNSF Line and Sounder commuter rail and they own Northstar (or at least the infrastructure). They are even planning on owning the Northern Lights Express and hosting the Arrow commuter service.
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