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Amtrak Looks To Private Investors To Help Upgrade Northeast Line

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Amtrak said it is soliciting proposals from private investors to help upgrade its heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor to eventually accommodate passenger trains that can travel at 220 miles per hour. Many private investment firms have already expressed interest, the federally subsidized passenger rail operator said. Proposals are due June 10. Amtrak last month issued a request for proposals for a business and financial plan that keeps it as the key developer and operator of the high-speed rail system. The latest plan comes two days after Amtrak's top executive said the system's financial losses are projected to widen this year despite rising ridership. Amtrak blames the red ink on rising compensation costs for union workers and increased costs for fuel, materials and other expenses. It is making money on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor but losing money on long-distance routes. Amtrak said high speed rail will further boost ridership along the populous Boston-to-Washington route, eventually allowing the system to operate in a more cost-efficient way. It is taking a step-by-step approach to the improvements, first upgrading a 24-mile section of the corridor's infrastructure to support speeds of up to 160 mph. "Amtrak will aggressively pursue private investment, in combination with funding from the federal government and from other public sources, to achieve our goal of initiating true high-speed rail from Washington to Boston," Vice President Al Engel said. -By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909; Andrew.FitzGerald@dowjones.com

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