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The Mid-Week brief is an unfettered look at what the press is saying about passenger rail — if you see something you dislike, or know to be inaccurate, don't hesitate to reach out to those responsible for the article by using the comment board of a linked website, or emailing the publication directly.
FRA: Amtrak must improve safety on Northeast Corridor
The Federal Railroad Administration ordered Amtrak to take immediate steps to improve safety on the Northeast Corridor. The order is in response to the recent deadly derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia.
"These are just initial steps, but we believe they will immediately improve safety for passengers on the Northeast Corridor," said Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg in a prepared statement.
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Passenger train hype machine gears up, yet again
National Assocation of Railroad Passengers
If you've been paying attention, you knew it was coming. Anytime Amtrak is in the national news, a political spectacle is sure to follow. Once the political-media apparatus geared up in response to the recent Amtrak derailment north of Philadelphia, there was nothing that was going to stop this particular circus from coming to town; not the tragic nature of the accident, nor the unambiguous statements by the National Transportation Safety Board's lead investigator saying that decades-old Positive Train Control technology would likely have prevented this horrible accident.
Missouri high-speed rail line nearing completion
Construction of a St. Louis, Missouri-area high-speed train is in the final stages.
The $1.5 billion renovation of the rail line between Chicago and St. Louis will allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 110 mph cutting travel time between the cities to about two and a half hours.
The upgraded train line will start in St. Louis, go up to Alton, Carlinville, Springfield and beyond. While a station has been constructed in Alton, East St. Louis is still hoping to pair their metro line services with the updated Amtrak line.
The Cass Scenic Railroad opens for the 2015 season with the Cass RailFan Weekend Spectacular – a weekend of photography and riding opportunities – May 15-17, 2015. The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad operates historic steam-driven locomotives and vintage diesel-powered passenger trains departing three historic depots – Elkins, Durbin and Cass – April thru December.
Amtrak Derailment and Aftermath
House cuts Amtrak funding 1 day after fatal train crash
By Jessica Taylor
The House Appropriations Committee voted to reject increased funding for Amtrak in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill. The funding would have made improvements to the rail service's outdated technology and infrastructure — all of which are in the forefront of the news since a train derailment in Pennsylvania that killed at least seven and injured more than 200.
Obama, local officials huddle over Amtrak crash
President Barack Obama met with public officials and leaders of police and fire departments that responded to the deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.
The group included Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Sen. Bob Casey, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer.
The White House said Obama thanked them "for their swift work to treat the wounded and save lives" following the recent derailment, which killed eight people and injured more than 200.
NTSB: US FBI found 'no evidence' of firearm damage to Amtrak 188
The FBI found "no evidence" of damage caused by a firearm to the windshield of derailed Amtrak 188, National Transportation Safety Board officials said.
"The FBI has completed its examination of the windshield of the Amtrak #188 locomotive and has found no evidence of damage that could have been caused by a firearm. The NTSB has not ruled out the possibility that another object may have struck the windshield. Additional updates on the investigation will be issued later this week," the NTSB said in a statement.
Privatize, don't subsidize Amtrak
Recently the U.S. witnessed a tragic train derailment on the Amtrak line that connects major East Coast cities. While the exact cause of the accident is not known yet, within two days liberal politicians had seized on the occasion to demand larger subsidies for Amtrak. In fact, the events show the precise opposite — Amtrak should not receive a larger subsidy, but rather should be sold off and privatized.
How much could Philadelphia derailment cost Amtrak?
As victims of the Philadelphia derailment begin filing lawsuits against Amtrak, the railroad could face damages of as much as half a billion dollars.
That's how much a new bill in Congress, lifting a nearly 20-year-old liability cap, would raise the combined total paid to victims and their families to collect for crash-related losses.
It's too early to estimate the final tally for legal claims in the accident, which killed eight people and injured more than 200 after a northbound Amtrak train traveling at more the twice the speed limit hit a curve and jumped the tracks.
Sen. Nelson introduces bill to raise Amtrak liability cap
The Senate's top Democrat on transportation issues wants Congress to raise the cap on Amtrak's victim compensation fund — betting that pent up pressure from last week's deadly crash will spur a call to action on legislation that's been stuck for years.
Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson introduced legislation to lift the cap on payouts for injuries and for the families of the dead to $500 million. That's more than double the current $200 million cap per accident that Congress enacted in 1997 when it helped bail out the railroad industry.
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Houston transit agency to seek funds for proposed transit-rail lines
Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, plans to move ahead with plans to seek funding for a proposed commuter-rail line along U.S. Highway 90A.
METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia and U.S. Rep. John Culberson recently penned a joint letter to Houston area citizens regarding plans for several transit initiatives, including the commuter line.
Do not let trickery block Texas high-speed rail
Fort Worth Star Telegram
Several bills attempting to block a proposed privately financed high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, Texas — and possibly one day linking to Arlington and Fort Worth — having failed in the House and Senate, a few lawmakers have worked behind closed doors to erect a new barricade.
State Sen. Charles Schwertner has added a rider to the Senate budget saying the Texas Department of Transportation cannot use any of its money on planning for the project.
A conference committee is working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate budgets.
If Amtrak were an airline
The New Yorker
Recently, there have been numerous calls by congressmen and pundits to re-privatize rail in the United States, or at least to try to run Amtrak for profit. So just what would it look like if Amtrak were run by the standards of its competitors in the airline industry?
It turns out that the critics are right. By the standards of today's airline industry, Amtrak is a hot mess of excessively consumer-friendly practices, and is forgoing millions, and maybe billions, in fees and fines that the airlines collect.
The US's best passenger rail network is in tatters and getting worse
The Associated Press via Skift
The trains that link global centers of learning, finance and power on the East Coast lumber through tunnels dug just after the Civil War, and cross century-old bridges that sometimes jam when they swing open to let tugboats pass.
Hundreds of miles of overhead wires that deliver power to locomotives were hung during the Great Depression.
The rails of the Northeast Corridor are decaying, increasingly strained — and moving more people than ever around the nation’s most densely populated region.
Design of high-speed trains threatens to diminish Caltrain capacity
StreetsBlog San Francisco
The insistence of California High-Speed Rail officials on running trains with floors 50 inches above the tracks threatens to reduce the capacity of Caltrain and hamper the benefits of level boarding for the commuter rail agency.
Recently, Caltrain officials gave an update on the electric trains the agency plans to purchase next year, which will begin operating in 2021. To enable level boarding for Caltrain passengers before and after CAHSR raises platforms to be compatible with its 50-inch floor trains, the new design has two sets of doors at different heights.
The plot against trains
The New Yorker
The recent train derailment also, perhaps, put a stop for a moment to the license for mocking those who use the train — mocking Amtrak's northeast "corridor" was a standard subject not just for satire, which everyone deserves, but also for sneering, which no one does. For the prejudice against trains is not a prejudice against an elite but against a commonality.
These Chinese people want HSR so badly they're fighting police to get it
Recently, thousands of people carrying banners marched through the streets of Linshui, a county in the southwest Chinese province of Sichuan. Some shouted slogans while others hurled rocks at lines of police in riot gear, who pushed back against the crowds and beat some with batons. Photographs show several people with bloody head injuries being cared for by paramedics and onlookers. Linshui residents turned out in droves, burned vehicles and braved riot police for more than eight hours — not to protest inequality, corruption or environmental degradation, but to demand that a high-speed rail line be built through their county.
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