Opinion

A failure of public enterprise?

From the November 2018 issue of Railway Age: Were Amtrak a business school case study, it would be advertised as “The Failure of Public Enterprise”—users receiving services for which they don’t pay the full cost; taxpayers subsidizing the difference; a failure to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), as if Bernie Madoff were Amtrak’s chief accountant, and conflict of interest collaboration with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to impede entry by more efficient private-sector competitors.

Who will protect the French Fries?

Financial Edge, November 2018: In mid-September, CSX filed a report to the FRA stating that its June 2018 derailment near Princeton, Ind., (about 150 miles south of Indianapolis) was caused by buckled track. The derailment included 23 freight cars and caused the evacuation of nearby homes (within a radius of about one mile from the crash site) as a precautionary measure. Some of the derailed cars were carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG or NGLs) and liquid propane (LP). 60,000 gallons of liquid NGLs were released. One tank railcar filled with leaking propane was on fire.

Amtrak’s Anderson not a random choice

Watching Washington, November 2018: When a 1978 labor dispute hobbled Northwest Airlines, North Dakota Gov. Arthur A. Link ventured to Minneapolis with a request of Chief Executive Donald Nyrop. Would Northwest—the lone east-west airline serving the state in the pre-deregulation era—withdraw an objection to competitor North Central temporarily providing the service?

A failure to communicate—again

I began using a CPAP machine in 2008—four years before I retired from my career as a locomotive engineer—and I continue to do so religiously. I didn’t have to be badgered or threatened. It wasn’t made a condition of my continued employment. My motive was and remains strictly self serving: I want to live.

Larry Ellison, what are you thinking?

Have you seen Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business News, where, paraphrasing Elon Musk, he trashes California High Speed Rail, calling it “1960s Japanese technology” that will be “one of the greatest embarrassments in the history of California governance”?

60 Minutes got it right

I usually have reason to be critical of non-rail-industry-trade-publication reports on railroads or rail transit. The reporters rarely understand the subject matter, and they frequently describe rail technology in terms that makes my hair stand on end—and I’ve been bald (“follically challenged”, in euphemistic terms) since about 1985. Or, they have an agenda. Not so with the Oct. 21, 2018 CBS 60 Minutes report on New York’s subway system.

The clock is running on untreated OSA

Timely accident investigations are critical to the future of safe transportation operations, for a number of reasons. First, they must begin expeditiously. As the clock runs, evidence can deteriorate or become corrupted. Witness memories of events fade, sometimes to the detriment of actual fact-finding. Second, the search for cause factors and efforts to remediate are delayed, leaving people and property at risk of more accidents and incidents caused by the same risk factors. Third, as time passes, other accidents and incidents demand investigation, putting a strain on investigatory resources.