Thursday, October 12, 2006

Not Much Happening

There is not much happening in Passenger Rail. This seems to be the opinion of much of the railroad press these days.

Unless you are paying attention, that is.

Let's summarize what's happening, small to large and old to new.

Some of the smallest cities ever to have a commuter system have one now. Albuquerque and Nashville have one. Many other small cities want one. The larger commuter lines are upgrading and the largest are ordering new cars and locomotives on a regular basis. There should be orders to keep the car builders busy until at least 2012.

Many reports have it that nothing is happening or will happen with Amtrak until the Ds put the Rs out of power in the Pit on the Potomac. But Amtrak is moving forward with new initiatives to answer critics. If the Ds and Rs would put a gun to the testicles of the freight railroads, Amtrak may even make some money by 2012.

There is and will be a continued incentive to either split off state operations from Amtrak or privatize them. The states and private operators will explore more possibilities for making a buck, something Amtrak can't do under its present mandate.

If the economy stays hot and Boomers keep living longer, the rail cruise genre will continue to grow. Look for some really hot and elegant trains, not just revamps of Budd cars from the 50s.

The oldest of the commuter rail systems probably won't have trouble funding, but will have trouble finding new routes. The battle lines are drawn. Will that new right-of-way through the suburbs be a highway or a railroad? In the olderst cities where the oldest commuter lines still run, there is no room left for either. This will bring out the NIMBYs and the BANANAs and the Anti-Eminent Domain freaks. It should be fun.

New? We doubt the viability of Maglev in the United States. The reluctance to build new right-of-way even for high speed conventional rail seems to doom Maglev out of hand. But stranger things have happened.

Watch for political fights. The current administration versus a D Congress if the pundits have their way, the Environmentalists versus everyone, the above mentioned freaks versus the judiciary and most of the government, the freight railroads versus the anti-profit types. The states won't try to compete with private enterprise, but if private enterprise can make Passenger Rail a paying proposition, the states will try to limit it and tax it. It should be a fun free-for-all.

No, not much is happening.

©2006 - C. A. Turek -

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