ryanwc wrote: ↑Mon Dec 04, 2023 12:03 pm
Does JB Hunt provide their own locomotives, or are they paying for things that Amtrak isn't asking for?
These are all very good questions and I really respect your thirst to understand the issues.
First, JB Hunt does not have their own power. The big four US roads know this is a very important revenue stream and do their best to make sure the assigned power is in top shape as it is worth big money to reach the destination on time. At times they have experimented with specialized power such as the four-motor six-axle power at BNSF and the GP60's used by SP decades ago. Really the only time private power is used was a few coal operations in the 1970's that felt Penn Central was overcharging them for power so they bought their own entire trains. Penn Central was also power-short as they didnt' have the budget to do adequate maintenance, so a lot of power sat in a dead line. The other time is Amtrak.
I've argued this before, Amtrak doesn't pay market rates (as I think a lot of us agree her) and doesn't do adequate maintenance on their power. If they leased power from the Freights and used HEP generators in baggage cars, the freights would be financially incentivized to provide a pair of SD70's in good shape. Even if the nominal lease payments on those motors weren't profitable, it's nice not to have a dead P42 tying up a single track main and blocking intermodals and coal trains. Since there is a big surplus of power right now, it would make sense.
Consider the practical side of an agreement like that: UP agrees to provide two motors full of fuel to move the Zephyr. If there is a problem that requires a 2 hour stop in the desert, the VP of intermodal traffic realizes he is losing money on his super-lucrative JB Hunt, UPS, or Schneider business. He calls Little Rock and says "hey you jerks, don't put anymore junkyard specials on the passenger trains, they are killing me".
Also, does traffic create wear on the track, and if so, is paying per-train addressing the relevant costs, or is tonnage a more appropriate metric, or cars a good proxy, since no one wants to weigh every loaded car in a freight train?
The track slots are the real cost here. A passenger train moves fast and probably takes up the space required to run 2 intermodal trains or four mixed freights. That's a lot of revenue lost, and its why UP wants big money to go daily on the Sunset. It's also why I'm philosophically against a daily Sunset. Billions spent so an extra 200 people per week can take the train is crazy. This is why I advocate for a Tucson-Phoenix 3x/day corridor train with perhaps a daily connection to Los Angeles. I-10 is awful between these cities, you also have multiple huge universities, air force base, and lots of retirees that don't like to drive. Whatever it takes to upgrade that 120 mile segment is worth 400-500 riders per day. Frankly I think its a Brightline project before it's an Amtrak project.
The new Acela: It's not Aveliable.