I think the article is very informative, and I recognize this is an older article, but I have some qualms about the narrow focus on privatization.
Of course we would all want privatized high-speed rail — prices would be competitive, it would be very efficient, and we’d have quality services. But the fact of the matter is that we don’t have a prolific, privatized HSR system in the US because it is not seen as a profitable venture. We would have had one long ago, had that not been the case. Simply wanting or advocating for the US to have a private HSR market won’t make it come into being.
The federal government’s dedication to spend billions of dollars on the interstate system has crushed any hopes of a competitive HSR market. Private HSR simply can’t offer prices that are competitive with driving, and for distances where the main competition is airlines…it would be difficult to compete with the speed and convenience of air travel, putting aside the fact that airlines dip in the federal purse also. I know that that Texas Central Railways (Dallas-Houston project) wants to fund their business privately, and I will support them till the end, but I am not holding my breath for it to actually happen.
We all have to accept that the government is in the transportation business, but government is historically good at laying down foundations and infrastructure upon which private companies can flourish. Governments pay for highways for us to drive our cars purchased from private companies, and governments pay for airports and landing strips for private airways to operate their planes. I see the role of government in HSR as the entity that can lay tracks on which private companies can operate trains. Part of the reason that Amtrak is not profitable is because it doesn’t own most of the tracks it operates on — it pays operating fees to freight companies. I believe that if the government will lay the foundation for HSR and bear the up-front capital costs, then HSR can operate privately.