Countering Amtrak’s pleas for more money, a congressional advisory panel said Thursday that private companies should be given the chance to make passenger trains more efficient and successful.
The Amtrak Reform Council called for competition in passenger rail, currently the exclusive domain of Amtrak. Two companies expressed some interest.
“The system we have today, the old Amtrak, has not worked and is not working,” said Gilbert Carmichael, chairman of the reform council.
The council finished nearly four years of work by sending a 111-page report to Congress and briefing officials from the Bush administration.
Amtrak, in a statement, said the report sidestepped questions about what kind of rail system Americans want, or how much it will cost.
The council said Amtrak, created in 1971 to relieve freight railways of the burden of carrying passengers, should no longer make policy or own land. It would break Amtrak into three pieces.
One would make policy and another would oversee the tracks, property and stations Amtrak owns in the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor.
The third would conduct train operations. After a transition of two to five years, it would accept bids for franchises to run various routes.
The next step is up to Congress, due to vote this year on whether to authorize Amtrak’s continued existence. The House Transportation Committee has scheduled a Feb. 14 hearing on the report.