In the Land of Enterprise, it’s Time for More Competition in Intercity Rail

Last week, a Hearing took place in Washington D.C., organized by the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

▶ The committee is concerned about the lack of improvements at Amtrak – following the record levels of funding that it has received.

▶ Some comparisons were made to rail in the European Union (EU), but they did not tell the whole story.

Our non-profit association ALLRAIL represents independently owned passenger rail companies active around the world, many of whom do business in Europe.

During the Hearing, some participants referred to high-speed rail in Europe as being a role model.

▶ However, high-speed rail in Europe only became affordable for most citizens and more efficient after intramodal competition was introduced.

▶ That meant: competing operators on the same route – like the examples in Italy and Czechia – leading to huge improvements.

▶ Furthermore: directly awarded taxpayer funded contracts to operate passenger trains are not even permitted anymore.

▶ Instead, the EU has introduced mandatory competitive tendering, to “encourage railway operators to become more responsive to customer needs, improve the quality of their services and their cost-effectiveness…(and)….to enable savings of public money”.

ALLRAIL Secretary General Nick Brooks says: “To improve service and accountability, all taxpayer funded Intercity rail contracts in the US should be competitively tendered. There are many independent US operators that could provide a better service for less money”.

There is no need for Amtrak to remain the preferred Intercity operator anymore. In the Land of Enterprise, it’s time for more competition in US passenger rail.