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A different track: Commuter rail without subsidies?

EDITORIAL
September 25. 2017 9:07PM


The promise of commuter rail as the panacea of economic development for southern New Hampshire has been overblown by politicians seeking public money for the project.

But privately-funded passenger rail service is another prospect entirely.

Nashua officials will get their first look tonight at a proposal by Boston Surface Railroad Company of Rhode Island to run trains between Worcester and Bedford. Future stops are possible in Nashua and Lowell.

The project is hardly the free-market utopia of Ayn Rand’s dreams. BSRC would take advantage of a federal loan program, and Nashua taxpayers would likely have to build a train station if they wanted a local stop. But private investors would be on the hook if the new route failed to generate enough passengers to turn a profit.

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, who has been one of the state’s biggest cheerleaders for the Capital Corridor boondoggle, is also enthusiastic about the BSRC proposal.

We have no idea if a Bedford-Worcester rail line could be profitable in five years, as the company hopes. But if private money is at stake, rather than the taxpayers’ dime, we’d have no objection.

Our transportation systems lack the innovation and risk-taking that come with entrepreneurship. If a private company thinks it can offer competitive rail service, it’s worth a closer look.


Transportation Local and County Government Editorial