The locomotive change at WAS hasn't kept all the Amtrak Virginia trains from making money (partly because WAS is such a big endpoint in its own right, as it would be for SEHSR, and partly because even with a 40 minute hold it is a reasonable wait for a 125mph train onward). And they are lucky to do 79mph out in the countryside.
I am assuming that the big payback that caused it to place at #9 nationally is that as a $3b dedicated 110mph Diesel connection between Richmond and Raleigh, it pays back in connecting two huge megaregions:
-Big benefits by speeding ground trips (vs car)
-Big benefit in decongesting/relieving I-95 & 85
-Big benefits as a cheaper alternative to air travel
So the benefits to society and the economy of NC & VA make it a highly desirable public investment.
The problem is how to make everyone who benefits pay back a little in fares, fees, or taxes?
Infrastructure banks work great with toll roads because road users are really good at paying tolls (and not, at that moment, thinking that they're burning taxed gas and expensive capital equipment (their car)). Car trips are a mix of subsidized by property and general taxes, and disregard for the cost of equipment and insurance, so tolls look cheap to people, but are highly lucrative and predictable, just like banks like.
In passenger rail it is very hard to directly ensure that the people benefitting pay--passengers are fare-averse(because air and car are kept cheap-,looking) and beyond that the benefits are so dispersed that only a broad based tax (income, property, or sales) is fair, but politically impossible.
The net result is that private companies do great ripping folks off as if toll roads were risky, and are a favorite of infrastructure banks (so are airports given their PFCs and parking prices), but passenger rail can never quite identify a "bondable" source of revenue.
That CAHSR has such huge payback (vs highway, air, congestion, environment and general economic stimulus) and yet has not identified a bondable source of Revenue to capture all the benefits that delivers is what makes me equally pessimistic for North Carolina and Virginia ever finding a bondable source / system for capturing all the benefits of High-Speed Rail to pay back and infrastructure bank loan.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn