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OCR for page 58
58 Guidebook for Implementing Passenger Rail Service on Shared Passenger and Freight Corridors The content of each of the three agreements shown in Figure 4-2 must be consistent with each other and in combination include all the elements needed to ensure a successful passenger rail service. The specific contents of the agreements are described in the following paragraphs. 4.3.2 Inputs to and Preparations for Finalizing the Agreements Chapters 2 and 3 have discussed preparations for negotiations with Amtrak and the host rail- roads and the main points of negotiation that must be addressed. In addition, Chapter 3 describes the types of analysis of train performance, rail corridor capacity, and capital O&M costs that may be needed to support negotiations and capital investment decisions. The key points covered in previous sections are summarized in the following subsections. Long-Term Vision Plan The passenger rail agency should have a long-term vision plan for the development of rail- road services in the state or region. Ideally the plan should include both freight and passenger rail services and have been prepared by the agency in consultation with other state agencies having an interest in transportation, as well as with providers of rail and related services of all types. With regard to passenger service, the plan should describe the long-term goal for pas- senger rail developments and the principal steps in developing services between the present and the goal. The PRIIA now requires state agencies to prepare such a plan as a precondition to accepting capital grants for intercity passenger rail service under the various programs administered by the FRA. Feasibility Study A thorough feasibility study for the proposed intercity passenger rail service should be prepared in cooperation with Amtrak and preferably the host railroad(s) on the corridor. As noted previ- ously, some host freight railroads prefer to be deeply involved in feasibility studies to make sure that their concerns are addressed early in the process, while others prefer only limited involve- ment. The feasibility plan differs from the vision plan in that it focuses on one corridor and ser- vice, rather than a whole state or region, but both should be long term, covering a period that reflects the service life of infrastructure investments. Almost all passenger rail projects involve investment in railroad infrastructure, including ROW, track and signal improvements, station and terminal investments, and sometimes purchase or lease of the ROW. These investments have a service life of at least 20 years, and the long-term plan is essential to ensure that benefits from the investments are fully realized. The feasibility study starts with the goals for the service at each stage in its development, such as: Target journey times, station locations, and train departure times. Desired number of daily trips. Planned accommodations on train. The results of the study are the actions needed to accomplish the planned service at each development stage, including: Proposed physical infrastructure investments (track upgrades, sidings and double track, signal systems, etc.). Estimated cost of infrastructure investments. Expected service performance. O&M requirements and the associated costs, including where specific maintenance activities are required to ensure planned service quality. Passenger car and locomotive requirements, and plans for acquisition and maintenance of suitable equipment for the planned service.

OCR for page 58
Content of Shared-Use Access and Operating Agreements 59 Because there will be considerable uncertainty regarding markets for passenger and freight rail services and the availability of funding for passenger rail capital and operating expenses, the plans must be flexible and structured to respond to unexpected developments. Provision for regular reviews and updates is essential. The penalties for not planning ahead can be substantial. Focusing on just the short term-- thinking "just get the service started and then worry about the long term later"--can lead to missed opportunities. When further development is needed to meet increasing patronage, agen- cies without a basic long-term framework agreed upon with the host and other users have found it very difficult or costly to take the next step. Making Access Agreements and Contracts Detailed, Unambiguous, and Consistent with Long-Term Plans As illustrated in Figure 4-2, a three-way set of agreements must be put into effect for Amtrak intercity service on a rail corridor. Each of these agreements should embody the same service spec- ification as developed in the feasibility study and as further negotiated with Amtrak and the host railroad(s). The agreements must provide a long-term framework to give all parties assurance that their future business and service development will not be compromised and that benefits from infrastructure investments can be fully realized. Because the future is inherently unpredictable, the agreements must include a process by which service changes can be negotiated to accommodate changes in performance and traffic levels, within agreed-upon limits. For example, if the long-term plan envisions starting with four round trips per day for a given passenger service, increasing to twelve round trips as demand grows and funding becomes available, then the agreement should reflect that and agree on what investments are required to make service increases possible. If the freight operator wants to assure the availability of a given capacity at different points over the term of the agreement, then the agreement should specify what passenger service levels are consistent with meeting that goal, what investments are needed to make this possible, and how the costs will be shared. Experience has shown it is unwise to leave some matters for future discussion or agreement or to accept verbal assurances that, for example, additional passenger trains can be accommodated at some point in the future. Negotiators who meet for a later round of discussions are unlikely to be different from those that negotiated the original agreement. Any understandings or assurances that were not explicit in the original agreement will not be enforceable, and changes in personnel, pol- icy, or external circumstances could mean that non-binding assurances have been forgotten or will no longer be honored. Experience also has shown that the agreements should be highly explicit and cover all aspects of operating needs of corridor users. Lower-probability scenarios should be considered and provided for in the agreements, if possible. For example, one passenger authority purchased a rail corridor from a freight railroad, which retained trackage rights for freight service on the corridor. Fifteen years later, the passenger authority is now facing difficulties because the freight railroad wants to operate more freight trains than either party envisioned when the original agreement was signed. The original agreement lacks any provision to address this situation, thus a broad renegotiation of the agreement is required. Flexibility, Renegotiation Periods, and Dispute Resolution All agreements should contain procedures both for periodic revision or renegotiation of contracts and a mechanism to resolve disputes. Given the inherent uncertainties in demand for freight and passenger rail service and in funding availability for passenger rail develop- ments, many agreements provide for renegotiation on request by either party. Other agree- ments provide for reviews at regular, often 5-year intervals with provisions for intermediate