Happening Now

‘Now’ Is The Magic Word For High-Speed Rail

May 10, 2024

By Jim Mathews / President & CEO

It’s no secret that I’m pretty impatient these days with the pace of passenger-rail progress. (Go back and re-read my rant about Moon landings taking less time than creating service development plans for new routes.) But that’s one reason why I was so excited when we learned that genuine passenger-rail rock-star Andy Byford – also known by his New York City nickname “Train Daddy” – would join Amtrak after successfully launching Transport for London’s new Elizabeth Line.

As I and many others expected, Byford is taking the U.S. passenger-rail scene by storm. His first assignment (and, I hope, not his last) is resurrecting the Texas high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston. You may remember that Texas Central won all of its court cases and got the all-clear to move ahead...but by the time they did, the legal battles had depleted its funds and scared off all the private-capital investors who had to wait too long for the court victory.

Byford, whose formal title at Amtrak is Senior VP of High-Speed Rail Development Programs, made a big splash late last month presenting at the Texas Rail Advocates’ annual Southwestern Rail Conference (put on by former Rail Passengers Chair Peter LeCody), drawing TV and news site coverage of his bold and optimistic vision for bringing back this very worthwhile project, plus tying it to other Amtrak-related initiatives elsewhere in the state.

“It's not all about high-speed. At Amtrak and with other partners we are looking at all aspects of the Texas Triangle," he said in Texas. "With a massive increase in population we need to be taking action now in order to expand the rail offering. If we do nothing, then the existing roads, which are already clogged, will become intolerably clogged and the only option will be to keep widening roads.”

Byford also told attendees that Amtrak is looking, again, at every aspect of the Texas Central Partners’ project that he and his team have inherited, “questioning everything” and spending the next year or so working out how to put together an innovative funding package to get the project moving again.

He’ll get a chance next week to make that pitch again at the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association’s Washington, D.C., meeting, although the preview of that pitch – shared on YouTube only 11 days ago – has already drawn more than 45,000 views and growing. His message is positive, exciting, and infectious:

“So, in one word, the future of high-speed rail? Very simple: Now!” Byford declares in the very popular video. “Let’s get on with it! ‘Now’ is the magic word.”

You can – and should – watch both videos of Andy at these links: Andy’s chat with Amtrak President Roger Harris about the future of Amtrak’s high-speed program can be found here, while the presentation before the Southwestern Rail Conference can be found by clicking here.