Rail Safety Bill Mired In Amtrak Politics

Federal legislation that would require and partially fund Positive Train Control technology, which, had it been installed by Metrolink, would have prevented the Sept. 12 crash, is held up in the Senate by a fiscal hawk wary of funding Amtrak.

"Legislation that would mandate collision-avoidance systems for trains is being blocked by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who objects to a provision that would provide a major funding boost for Amtrak that was bundled together with the safety measures this week.

The package includes a mandate for rail operators to equip their trains with collision-avoidance technology, called positive train control, or PTC. A National Transportation Safety Board official said the California train crash could have been prevented if the commuter train was equipped with PTC, which would automatically have stopped the train when it ran a stop signal. The bill being debated in Congress would mandate PTC systems for trains by 2015."

"While Mr. Coburn said the bill has "a lot of great reforms," he refused to back down on the Amtrak issue. He said the bill still lacks performance metrics for Amtrak and contains unacceptable taxpayer subsidies for food and beverage service on Amtrak trains."

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From National Association of Railroad Passengers press release of Sep 24, 2008 - Rail Passengers Support Combined Rail Safety and Amtrak Reauthorization Bill:

"NARP is pleased that an agreement has been reached in conference committee to move forward both the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (including Amtrak reauthorization and funding for state projects) and a rail safety package with a Positive Train Control mandate. House passage is expected today..."

Full Story: Fiscal Hawk Blocks Train Bill

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