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The Hill

Amtrak Reiterates Opposition to Privatization Plan Ahead of House Hearing

Keith Laing

With lawmakers expected to hold a hearing Wednesday on House Republicans' plan to privatize Amtrak, the national passenger rail service said again that it is staunchly opposed to the plan.

In a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), who authored the plan, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman said, "[A]s currently written, this bill would likely mean the end of Amtrak and the national passenger rail system that Congress authorized nearly 40 years ago.

"This legislation proposes a complex and risky undertaking in the name of advancing improved high-speed rail service within the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and introducing private-sector competition for operation of current Amtrak short- and long-distance routes," Boardman wrote to Mica.

"We believe the approach outlined in this legislation would retard rather than advance the development of high-speed rail, introduce unrealistic time schedules and assumptions, fail to provide adequately for transportation safety and security, be very expensive to the taxpayer when compared to other development models, and be fundamentally damaging to the national mission for which Amtrak was created in which the taxpayers already have invested multiple billions of dollars," he continued. "For all of these reasons, we cannot support this proposed legislation."

Unveiling the plan last week, Mica and co-sponsor Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said private companies could provide faster service for passengers traveling to locations between Washington and Boston than Amtrak's Acela trains. The duo also said that private high-speed rail service would be cheaper than Amtrak's current proposal, which calls for spending $117 billion to increase the speed of trains to 220 miles per hour over 30 years.

"People are going to turn blue waiting for Congress to provide that money," Mica said in a news conference announcing the privatization plan. "They're also going to turn blue waiting for a high-speed train [from Amtrak]."

The proposal would remove Amtrak from control of the federally designated Northeast Rail Corridor and transfer it to the Department of Transportation. A newly created Northeast Corridor Executive Committee would oversee the bidding process for rail projects in the Northeast.

The House hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

Separately, a Senate committee is looking Wednesday morning at the issue of rail security.

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