Moorman and Hamberger say high-speed rail will require 'significant' investments

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NSmugCharlesWickMoorman
Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman
Amtrak
EdHamberger
Ed Hamberger, Association of American Railroads' president
Association of American Railroads
WASHINGTON — Top executives of Amtrak and the Association of American Railroads say that building a high-speed rail network would require billions in investment to build wholly new railroad lines.

Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman and AAR President Ed Hamberger also said that passenger and freight rail sectors are looking for different things in the Trump administration's transportation and infrastructure proposals. They appeared Wednesday on C-SPAN Washington Journal, the cable network's daily call-in public affairs program.

“The key issue with high speed trains which people don't always recognize is that they essentially require [a] completely new right-of-way,” Moorman said. “The Europeans, the Chinese, the Japanese, and others have made significant commitments in the order of hundreds of billions of dollars, and that's the kind of commitment it takes.”

Moorman said that Amtrak was working to improve train speeds in the Northeast Corridor and that it “will take huge amounts of infrastructure renewal, and expenditure” to do so.

“Everybody says why can't we have railroads like they have in Europe or Japan. We have the best freight rail system in the world. We're the envy of the world,” Hamberger said. He said he frequently has guests asking how they can get trucks off the highways in their countries.

President Donald Trump's proposed “skinny budget” would remove federal support of Amtrak long-distance routes and focus money on Northeast Corridor improvement. Moorman said there was a public benefit in providing transportation services in areas of the country underserved by other modes. Moorman said the ultimate effect of not investing in long-distance lines would be less investment in the corridor.

“We think the best approach continues to be a balanced approach, and that is what Congress has decided on over many years,” Moorman said.

“I view Amtrak as a government contractor,” Moorman said, elaborating that he thinks it is Amtrak's job to carry out the mission that Congress and the President choose. “To date, the decision has always been made that Amtrak should be in the businesses that it's currently in, and we continue to do what we do best, which is to promote the idea of passenger rail transportation across the country.”


Since freight railroads fund their own infrastructure improvements, Hamberger said railroads are looking for regulatory changes that would allow them to continue to invest. He said it takes six to eight years to get government agencies to sign off on a new bridge or intermodal yard.

“We need to compress that. You still have to go through the studies, you still have to get the permits, but let's do it in a smart way so the different agencies are operating concurrently not in consecutive fashion,” Hamberger said.

He also said that the Surface Transportation Board, the industry's “economic regulator,” should “continue to allow us to earn the capital necessary to plow back into the infrastructure.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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