Amtrak was pretty clear a few years ago that three-a-week was a problem, an inefficient use of resources, and needed to end. But it doesn't mean that it makes sense to spend $200 million to go daily. If it cost $20 million, Amtrak might well do it.
I have been wondering for a while what amount of money would be asked by CSX and the Buckingham Branch for the *Cardinal* to go daily. (I would hope there would be no complaints west of Indianapolis or east of Charlottesville!) The projections back in the PIP in 2010 were that it would impact Amtrak's bottom line for the worse by $2.1 million / year (vs. $3 million / year for the Sunset/Eagle daily plan). ($400 million of that is increased staffing costs at staffed stations.) The numbers are probably more favorable now, with revenue per passenger up substantially (up by more than 10% in the last two years). The PIP did say that nothing could be done until more rolling stock was available, so I wouldn't expect to see anything until the new Viewliners are delivered. But after that, I wonder: Virginia is already spending some money on the Buckingham Branch, how much more would it take?
If Amtrak has $20 million available to spend in capital funds on LD route improvements. Much depends on what happens in the Re-authorization bill and the FY2014 appropriations. The administration asked for a lot of funding for passenger rail, including $800 million for the LD trains. Meanwhile Amtrak is asking for $2.65 billion in total. With the federal budget annual deficit falling even faster than forecast a few months ago, the politics of the deficit hawks/anti-spending crowd versus more investment in infrastructure crowd for the Fy14 budget are going to be interesting.
At the MWHSR meeting, according to the Trains Mag article, Boardman did have this to say about using NEC revenues to cover the losses on the LD trains: "But Boardman warned that paying back a $532 million loan used to purchase 70 new Siemens electric locomotives, formally unveiled last Monday in Sacramento, would mean that expanding Northeast Corridor revenues would not be available to help improve long-distance trains’ cost recovery." What Boardman had to say about VIA was also interesting....
As for the Buckingham Branch RR, the primary issue is the lack of sidings long enough over the 116 miles from Gordonsville to Clifton Forge for the 8000' long empty coal trains the CSX sends westbound on the BBRR. There was a new project line item added in the Virginia 6 year budget plan last year of $7 million for the North Mountain subdivision Siding Project split over FY13 & FY14. Now shifted to FY14 and FY15 in the FY14 draft 6 year budget plan that was just released. Have not found specifics on it, but it appears that VA is providing funds to build a new long siding on the BBRR. But it could be VA FY15 or later before it is built. However this is way off-topic for Jacksonville to Miami topic.