Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boardman: Amtrak frequency, reliability are service keys

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Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman says U.S. passenger service will benefit more quickly from reliable, frequent operations, not from seeking top speeds of 200 mph or more in an effort to quickly match European and Asian high speed trains. Moreover, aiming for such ambitious speeds would be very expensive, beyond the reach of funds identified last month by the Obama Administration.

Boardman, addressing the Illinois House Railroad Industry Committee Monday in Chicago’s Thompson Center, said, “It's really not about the speed. It's about reduced travel times and more frequency." He added, "The competitive advantage is with the train."

Boardman said planning to boost Amtrak services covering nine Midwest states, centered in Chicago, to more modest top speeds of 110 mph was a better approach. Addressing speed restrictions on the low end could pay dividends; Boardman cited one case where Amtrak is limited to speeds of 5 mph because of freight train congestion, compounded by antiquated track and signaling equipment.