Amtrak or competition?

The National Taxpayers Union says the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) operations board should break free from Amtrak and put its system’s services up for bid:

“Over the past thirty-plus years of Amtrak’s existence, the railroad has hindered, not helped, the development of rail networks,” said NTU Director of Government Affairs Paul Gessing. “Amtrak has repeatedly threatened commuter rail systems like VRE with shutdowns and work stoppages, while offering services that are often not even competitive on a price basis when compared with those provided by outside contractors.” The NTU letter noted that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) bid out Amtrak maintenance contracts and awarded a contract to the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company, resulting in a cost savings of $100 million over a five-year period and improvements in system on-time rates and breakdowns. Similarly, Southern California’s Metrolink recently severed its 12-year relationship with Amtrak by approving a contract with Connex – the private firm now managing service for MBTA — to replace Amtrak by mid-2005.