USA: in Land of Enterprise, it is competition between different operators that will maximize the benefits of high-speed rail

Thursday, Mar 16, 2023: this week, the American Public Transport Association (APTA)’s High-Speed Rail Seminar event is taking place in Washington DC, in order to discuss how to build “a robust high-speed and intercity passenger rail network that is environmentally friendly, resilient, and sustainable”.

This goal is welcome and correct. At the same time, our association ALLRAIL also notes how state and US federal money will be necessary to complete many of these US high-speed rail projects.

Nevertheless, we believe that there can be a large net positive benefit for the US economy and society. However, in order to get there, the usage of the new high-speed rail infrastructure must be maximized. This can only be achieved by promoting competition between different high-speed operators from the beginning of operations.

A very good example is high speed rail in Italy, where the newcomer high-speed operator NTV Italo started competing against the previous sole high-speed operator FS Trenitalia in 2012. This new intramodal competition brought choice and innovation, leading to many benefits:

➢ Average fares fell by more than 40%.

➢ According to CNN, high-speed passenger rail numbers “almost quadrupled in a decade”, to the detriment of air and car usage on the same routes.

And this was not a one-off: exactly the same occurred in Spain since 2021 when two new high-speed operators started competing on the same tracks against the previous sole operator Renfe. This new competition has led to 43% lower prices and a 49% increase in ridership.

“The US should leapfrog any attempt to introduce just one single high-speed operator per route.

Instead, wherever taxpayer dollars have been spent on high-speed rail infrastructure then – from the beginning of operations – there should be two or more companies competing against each other on the same route”.

ALLRAIL Secretary General Nick Brooks

It’s a ‘No Brainer’ – after all, maximizing the number of high-speed rail passengers is very environmentally friendly. At the same time, the US is the Land of Enterprise and already embraces competition in all other modes of transport. Therefore, intramodal competition in high-speed rail should be worthy of broad bipartisan support.