Well, it’s January, 2012 and the sounds of silence appeared in “Amtrak Moves Aggressive Agenda for 2012,” where they say “America’s Railroad is building for the future.” That future appears to be a withering of the long-distance trains by neglect while the company pretends to “strengthen current services.” What is in this “Agenda”? As expected, the already announced order for 70 new electric locomotives (NEC), 130 new single-level long-distance cars (Eastern routes only), plus a high-capacity next-generation high-speed rail system (NEC), upgrading tracks, bridges and other infrastructure (NEC) (which he claims are essential for supporting our national network), expanding Acela Express capacity (NEC), additional capacity into Manhattan, NY, (NEC), improving ADA station accessibility (not specified), development of the on board e-ticketing and the next generation reservation system (NEC and Corridors first), new technology for onboard food sales (NEC and Corridors first), 160 MPH HSR upgrades along a 24-mile section in New Jersey (NEC) , Positive Train Control (NEC first), and expanding the Amtrak Police Department (NEC). Oh, they throw in a Seattle, Washington Maintenance Facility (for the Cascade Corridor).
While he focuses more on the long-distance trains, it's important to note that much of that money could be quite well used on the corridors as well. The catenary upgrade in New Jersey is $450 million in exchange for about one minute of actual time saved. There are quite literally dozens of far more worthy projects across the nation that could greatly raise Amtrak patronage and lower its costs were they to be funded instead of this catenary upgrade. Depending on the particular report, that would pay in full or in part for the Miramar tunneling outside San Diego, for instance, which is quite likely the single biggest bottleneck and contributor to lengthy trips on the LOSSAN corridor.
Is the NEC important? Of course. But Amtrak is national and several other corridors have the potential to be just as important if Amtrak can simply disengage from its current focus on the NEC and instead invest in the entire nation rather than merely the one area where it happens to own the tracks. The Federal government needs to strip away the NEC and establish a national joint powers authority for the network, which is predominately used by commuter agencies anyhow.