After the Amtrak crash, the drumbeat has sounded. The House voted to cut the rail service's budget. Some have begun the chant to privatize Amtrak. One person said sell Amtrak to Elon Musk of Tesla Motors fame.

All this is terribly good television and politicking. Sadly, it is a line of argument based on ignorance of history and business reality. Forget a silver bullet solution. Privatization of Amtrak is poorly thought out and a good way to finish killing off passenger rail service in this country at I time when we need it more than ever before.

It's already been done

Check the history books and you'll see that Amtrak is the privatization of passenger rail service. Amtrak, formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, was created by Congress in 1970 to run intercity rail passenger service. Before that date, private railroad companies ran such service, only it had been a money loser for ten years and the companies had cut more than half of the service once offered. They only wanted to handle freight, which made money. Many figured that Amtrak would die off, only it hasn't.

Good luck finding a buyer

The basic conditions of freight operators hasn't suddenly made passenger traffic desirable, meaning finding a buyer that understands how to run a rail system is pretty unlikely. Perhaps you could find a bottom-feeding private equity firm to take on the burden, but chances are that they wouldn't invest the money necessary to bring the service up to snuff.

The country needs rail service

Although millions opt for planes or cars, for many people, rail is the prime choice. According to Amtrak's numbers, it carries more passengers between Boston and New York than all the airlines taken together. It carries three times as many people as airlines between New York and Washington, D.C. Figures quoted in March 2014 said that the company had 31.6 million riders in 2013. There is massive demand, and that might increase should there be adequate service between cities across the country. Expecting planes to take up the slack is unrealistic, and it's smart to keep as many automobiles, and all the carbon they generate, off the roads as possible.

Much money needs to be spent

For the last few years, Amtrak officials have warned Congress that a lack of capital support has meant that the "likelihood of major infrastructure failure has grown." That's polite terminology for what happened in Philadelphia. "Current investment levels leave us vulnerable to a bigger, costlier, and far more damaging failure than anything we have seen," CEO Joseph Boardman wrote the House and Senate last year. The reason for the need to upgrade systems, tunnels, bridges, and cars (many of which are old and worn) is that we as a country have ignored the need for decades worth of investment. Eventually that catches up -- at today's costs. Privatization -- sorry, re-privatization -- won't change that. If anything, it makes the chance of finding a buyer even more unlikely. Who wants to pick up that big a problem?

Amtrak has actually been improving

The company has actually been getting operations up to snuff with record years of riders and revenue exceeding operating expenses. Re-privatization now would mean walking away from finally seeing improvement and hoping that someone else could necessarily do better. Would someone else have had the so-called positive train control, or PTC, in place to automatically decelerate the train? Actually, Amtrak is likely ahead of most other rail carriers in implementing the expensive and complicated technology -- which it has done without additional funding from Congress, which mandated it by the end of this year.

It's passing the buck

The lack of infrastructure spending is the responsibility of Congress. The terrible state of what is part of the national transportation infrastructure is the result of Congress deciding it could ignore reports of problems and trust that nothing would happen. Eventually something did. Privatization doesn't even address the problems, let alone fix them. Maybe instead of privatizing (or re-privatizing) Amtrak we should privatize the House and Senate. Oh, wait, we already have.