As Amtrak celebrates its 50th anniversary, it may finally be emerging from its red-headed stepchild status as the airline industry’s inferior alternative mode of transportation. After being locked in a decades-long battle with Congress for funding, Amtrak faces its friendliest presidential administration since its inception back in May of 1971.
Sweeping changes and more funding are in the pipeline for our nation’s passenger rail line. But so is its record on safety and efficiency, as performance metrics will be used to implement the just-passed Rail Passenger Fairness Act. The act is designed to assist Amtrak with improving its on-time performance on rail lines all over the United States.
Not just throwing money at the problem
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Illinois), states, “For far too long, freight railroads have taken preference over passenger rail, resulting in poor on-time performance and delays for Amtrak riders. With the Rail Passenger Fairness Act, we can finally hold freight railroads accountable when they fail to follow the law and get Amtrak’s on-time performance back on track.”
Many people don’t realize that freight trains must offer preferential access to passenger rail systems on shared tracks. Giving teeth to that law can, as Durbin relates, give riders “the assurance that they will arrive at their destinations in a safe and timely manner.”
We all share in the responsibility to prevent train accidents
Regardless of any bills passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, every motorist on the road must remain aware and reactive when approaching a train crossing — especially those in rural areas where they may be unmarked by cross-arms and clanging warnings.
If you are injured as a rider on an Amtrak train, you should understand your rights to seek compensation for any injuries, damages and other losses.