Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Amtrak reorganizing to advance high-speed rail in America

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Amtrak said it is reorganizing and establishing a new department to pursue opportunities to develop new intercity high-speed rail service in select corridors around the country and to plan for major improvements on the Northeast Corridor, including determining the feasibility of increasing top speeds up to 220 mph.

"Amtrak is the unparalleled leader in high-speed rail operations in America today and we intend to be major player in the development and operation of new corridors," said President and CEO Joseph Boardman, noting Amtrak is the only railroad in America to operate passenger trains at 150 mph. "New high-speed rail services, linked together with conventional intercity passenger rail and local transit, are a key part of a sustainable future for America."

Boardman explained the Amtrak board of directors recently approved the creation of a new High-Speed Rail department as the next step in an ongoing process to better position Amtrak to maximize the opportunities available in the new intercity passenger rail environment.

He said the department will be led by a vice president that reports directly to the president and CEO and that he will move quickly to fill the position with a highly qualified individual.

The new department will focus on the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor and conduct the necessary planning activities required to provide: a major reduction in trip-times between Washington and New York and New York and Boston; a significant increase in the number of train frequencies; and determining the feasibility of increasing top speeds up to 220 mph. In addition, it will pursue partnerships with states and others in the passenger rail industry to develop federally-designated high-speed rail corridors such as the new projects moving forward in California and Florida.

As America's intercity passenger rail service provider and only high-speed rail operator, Boardman said Amtrak's leadership on this issue was reaffirmed by Congress in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. He added Amtrak is uniquely qualified to fulfill the goals laid out by the Obama administration in its Vision of High-Speed Rail in America.

"We look forward to the day when a network of high-speed, regional and long-distance intercity passenger trains can provide a majority of Americans with a high-quality and environmentally-friendly alternative to driving or flying," Boardman stated.

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