Highlights of Amtrak Reform Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Highlights of the reform plan for Amtrak that will go to Congress, according to a wire service report:

-Amtrak and the National Rail Passenger Corporation -- currently the same entity -- would be split, and the corporation would oversee a transition of train operations to the private sector. During a transition period of two to five years, train operations would be handled by a subsidiary with an organizational structure like Amtrak's.

During this transition period:

-The corporation would create separate subsidiary units of the train-operating company to run the Northeast Corridor, other populated short-haul corridors, and long-haul routes.

-Other new units would run the railroad's mail and express delivery business, operate the locomotive and car repair shops, and hold ownership and lease rights to equipment.

-The corporation would have the authority to franchise out one or more Amtrak routes as pilot projects. Franchisees would win contracts through competitive bidding. They would have to hire Amtrak employees, by seniority, and respect Amtrak's existing collective bargaining agreements.

-The federal government would continue to subsidize the operations of long-haul, overnight trains.

After the transition period:

-All train routes would be subject to franchising by competitive bids. If no bids are offered for a route, the corporation's subsidiary would continue operating it.

-States developing high-speed corridors or subsidizing lower-speed trains would have the right to manage the franchising process for those routes.

-Mail and express operations would be franchised through competitive bidding as a single unit or as parts of passenger operation franchises.

-The federal government would continue to subsidize long-haul, overnight trains. But states would begin covering any losses associated with existing and new service in short-haul corridors.

-The operating company created as part of the transition would be privatized.