A small upstart company run by a Colorado multi-millionaire, GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, appears to have broken a major barrier and started providing scheduled, competitive rail service in the United States. While the company also provides “land cruises,” (that emphasize sightseeing by train) it also has a few services that would be useful for people looking to go from point a to point b. Although I have no idea if it has a viable business model, its existence seems to show that the death of government-run Amtrak won’t mean an end for long-distance rail service in the U.S.
A handful of tourist-oriented heritage railroads and at least one other “land cruise” company still operate in the U.S. but, for about 35 years, only Amtrak has provided scheduled point-to-point inter-city service over significant distances. Amtrak also operates most of the commuter railroads in the country under contract and will even provide the locomotives for GrandLuxe.
This new company seems to be providing a high-end product at an appealing price: a little checking around shows that its Washington, D.C.-Miami fares are lower than the best business-class fares I could find. It’s a niche market with limited client base to be sure but, of course, so are Amtrak’s own inter-city trains.
Maybe the market doesn’t exist for this kind of travel. It’s a lot slower than flying however one chooses to look at it. But at least one entrepreneur appears willing to see if there’s a market niche where Amtrak has failed.