Of course; but there are limitations and questions.
The question isn't whether a passenger service would be profitable; but whether the operator would profit under contract to a unit of government. The public will pay one way or another as it does for roads.
In Florida, it's rather straight-forward that a private company could serve major intercity corridor and metropolitan services. The Colorado Front Range is another example where a private company might be the operator.
Other intercity corridors are both multi-state and an amalgam of different host roads reliant on the dispositions of all parties. As with Metra in Chicago where some commuter lines are owned by Metra and others are hosted by agreement on the private railroads, states and regional government authorities may need to have both Amtrak, private railroads, and contract operators.
Amtrak provided a unified and consolidated support structure and multi-state authority in 1971; but opponents are chipping away at that, both by limiting funding and compromising its authority. Allowing private railroads to provide service as an alternative gives an excuse to dismantle Amtrak and its legal authority to operate over private railroads.
Part of Metra's creation was in response to the bankruptcies of the Rock Island and Milwaukee Road and the threats posed to the suburban services. Metra was formed in 1976; but I don't know if this was coincidental with or in response to the Staggers Act.
Would new Federal legislation disbanding Amtrak, at least outside the Northeast Corridor, also allow railroads to summarily discontinue or refuse to host any rail passenger service at their discretion?
What authority would state and local governments have to maintain or institute suburban or intercity services on private railroads without Amtrak?
Would Amtrak, if it still exists, be allowed to share use of the FEC or other railroad in private contract with a state?
Some answers (and thoughts) to some questions:
Of course, private railroads couldoperate state passenger services. They do it now. Commuter service in the metro Los Angeles area is provided on a purchase of service contract (let's not quibble that southern California is not a state; it thinks it is.) The same goes for Metra, where UP and BNSF both operate significant service on behalf of Metra (again, a region, if not a state.) The question certainly is whether they could do so profitably. If not, they have no business running the service; the management has a fiduciary responsibility to the railroad's owners and creditors. If California or Illinois with to offer passenger services, they had better first figure out where the money is coming from.
For the record, Metra was established in 1976. Staggers was not passed until late 1980. Having been involved in the development of Staggers, I can affirm that passenger service simply was not an issue in developing Staggers. Relieving railroads of the horrors of government economic regulation was what Staggers was all about. The Rock entered bankruptcy in 1975, before the creation of Metra, and the Milwaukee went into the tank in 1977, after the creation of Metra. That puts into question just why Metra was created.
It is my understanding that Amtrak has the legal authority to contract for its service to be operated by it over the tracks of private freight railroads. It is my understanding that absent additional legislation, that authority does not today extend to other would-be operators that might seek to supplant Amtrak. Of course, a railroad could, for a satisfactory payment, agree to such an arrangement. We don't always have to be litigious, you know.
Colorado has a marvelous corridor between Fort Collins and Pueblo (actually, it extends north to Cheyenne, Wyoming, but one would have to could a lot of safebrush bushes as people to find the density to make a Front Range rail service worth the cost.
Sorry for my confusion of Staggers with 4R.
Metra was created as a conduit to receive public funds to contract with the railroads and create the Northeast Illinois Railroad Corporation to own and operate the Rock Island, anticipated the bankruptcy of the Milwaukee Road and consolidated administration of the numerous mass transit districts. A private company could not be given public funds directly for capital improvements or operation. I believe that the Rock Island suburban service was continued with judicial administration under contract to the Southwest Suburban Mass Transit District. The Milwaukee Road operations also were funded by mass transit districts before 1975 for operation, system maintenance and new locomotives and cars. Rock Island freight service in Illinois was transferred to CSX by emergency court order; and the much degraded passenger services to Rock Island and Peoria were discontinued.
The question remains, what is "satisfactory payment?" I wonder if even Amtrak, let alone state transportation agencies, have the experience, willingness, or leverage to negotiate with Class Is? The $2 billion going into the Chicago - Saint Louis corridor is more than necessary for enhanced passenger services and the existing level of freight service. UP is getting a substantial windfall of capacity for expanding its freight service, especially inter-modal to the Gulf, beyond incremental cost or quid quo pro.
Increased control of passenger services by railroads gives substantial leverage in negotiations, to block any new service, to refuse to renew a contract, and to refuse a private operator. Current political animosity to public transit and intercity rail passenger service enables additional leverage for railroads jeopardizing service despite the dependent relationship between passenger services and community that has developed of the years.
Amtrak has legaly the ablity to force private railroads to open there tracks to there service.
That was part of the deal when they where founded
Why it has done so so few times (one was with Guilford) and does not use this power to force UP to allow for more Sunset Service is
perhaps the cost of lawyers is more then what they would make off of it....and whats up with this spacing?
Your spelling and grammar are atrocious. If you wish to communicate with others, you might extend them the courtesy of presenting your ideas in a manner that can be understood by people of normal intelligence. As for Amtrak, its fundamental law has been changed/amended on several occasions. You are incredibly simplistic when you say Amtrak has the authority to do anything. Amtrak is required to pay the underlying railroad's avoidable cost for its use of the railroad's property. Amtrak, which you may have noticed, loses money, is not about to lose even more by forcing a railroad to allow it to use that railroad's property. Sorry, "commoncarrier," but you don't even qualify as a half-way decent foamer.
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