Privatization of railroad passenger service: ideology vs. economics, logic, and "common sense"
It's very difficult for passenger railroad services to be economically competitive with other forms of transportation, because those other forms of transportation:
- private automobile service
- inter-city bus service
- airplane travel
are significantly subsidized. Railroads pay for their own infrastructure--land and railroad tracks--while the cost of roads are not fully borne by their users, on either an individual or for-profit basis, and to some extent, airline services are significantly subsidized as well, although airports do pay their own way, sort of.
It's why railroad companies gave up passenger service long ago. Even before the nationalization of passenger railroad service in favor of Amtrak in the 1970s, many railroads were receiving subsidies for local passenger service.
So it doesn't seem to make much sense to spend a lot of time writing about how calls for privatization of passenger railroad service in the U.S., most particularly the Northeast Corridor service are driven by ideology rather than economics. See "GOP Seeks Bidders on Amtrak Rail Lines" from the Wall Street Journal.
Instead, I will reprint this blog entry:
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Railroad passenger services, public or private?
The Transport Politic blog has a stupendous entry on the subject: HSR: Public or Private?
I've written about the European experience a bit myself, "US Federal Rail Policy: Learning from Worse Practices" and have linked to these resources in other entries:
-- privatization of British Rail (see "The Privatization of Public Utilities Can Be a Disaster" from the International Herald-Tribune from 2001)
-- contracting of railroad services for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (see the Boston Globe editorial, "Unreliable Rails.)