High-Speed Rail Won’t be Inexpensive

High speed passenger rail service in America is going to cost a lot of money two railroad leaders said last week.

On that point Amtrak CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman” and Association of American Railroads Present Ed Hamberger both agree.

The two railroad executives appeared on Washington Journal, a daily C-SPAN cable network’s public affairs program.

AAR represents the interests of freight railroads so it is seeking different things in the pending Trump administration’s transportation infrastructure revitalization plan.

“The key issue with high speed trains which people don’t always recognize is that they essentially require [a] completely new right-of-way,” Moorman said. “The Europeans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and others have made significant commitments in the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, and that’s the kind of commitment it takes.”

Noting that Amtrak wants to boost train speeds in the Boston-New York-Washington Northeast Corridor, Moorman said that “will take huge amounts of infrastructure renewal and expenditure” to do so.

For his part, Hamberger made a pitch for freight rail. “Everybody says why can’t we have railroads like they have in Europe or Japan,” he said. “We have the best freight rail system in the world. We’re the envy of the world.”

Hamberger said freight railroads want changes in regulations of the industry, saying it now takes six to eight years to get government agencies to approve a capital investment such as a new bridge or intermodal yard.

“We need to compress that. You still have to go through the studies, you still have to get the permits, but let’s do it in a smart way so the different agencies are operating concurrently not in consecutive fashion,” Hamberger said.

Moorman also called for a balanced approach in providing passenger rail on long-distance and corridor routes.

“I view Amtrak as a government contractor,” Moorman said. “To date, the decision has always been made that Amtrak should be in the businesses that it’s currently in, and we continue to do what we do best, which is to promote the idea of passenger rail transportation across the country.”

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