Amtrak, PTC focus of BLET testimony before Congress
CLEVELAND, June 27 — John Tolman, Vice President and National Legislative Representative of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, testified before Congress today in support of long-term federal funding for Amtrak and the need to improve railroad safety through the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) and other safety measures.
At the same time that Vice President Tolman was testifying before the Railroad Subcommittee, the House Appropriations Committee was voting on legislation for Fiscal Year 2014 that would slash Amtrak funding 29% from last year.
“I encourage all active or retired BLET members, members of the BLET Auxiliary, or concerned family members, to call their members of Congress and encourage them to fund Amtrak at the Senate level,” Vice President Tolman said. “Nationwide Amtrak service, and not just routes that are profitable, is critical to our transportation system. We all know how important Amtrak is, and we need to make sure the members of the House know it too. Amtrak’s survival is critical to all BLET members.”
BLET members can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for their member of Congress to urge them to support Amtrak and the Senate’s level of appropriations.
Vice President Tolman testified before the House Subcommittee on Railroads at a hearing titled: “National Rail Policy: Examining Goals, Objectives, and Responsibilities.”
“[The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen] would like to reinforce the need for Amtrak’s long-term funding and the continued need for cooperation between freight railroads and labor to provide stimulus to our industry and the economy, and the need to do all this while making the critical strides to enhance rail safety,” Tolman said.
Congress mandated creation of a National Rail Policy when it passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (“RSIA”), calling upon the Federal Railroad Administration to “develop a long-term national rail plan… in order to promote an integrated, cohesive, efficient, and optimized national rail system for the movement of goods and people.”
Tolman also testified that the National Rail Plan should protect organized rail labor.
“Freight and passenger rail are the answer for many of our nation’s transportation problems,” he said. “Rail is energy efficient, relieves highway congestion, and provides flexible and viable alternatives as our population continues to grow. It also is imperative that any National Rail Policy or Plan would protect the interests of the men and women who work on America’s railroads.”
POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL
According to Vice President Tolman, PTC will save lives and the BLET strongly supports the implementation of PTC on our nation’s railroads. He chastised the rail industry for seeking an extension of the federally-mandated deadline of 2015 for installation of the life-saving technology.
“[Railroad companies] have had over seven years to work on this, and now they come to Congress begging for an extension, yet this issue has been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s ‘Most Wanted List’ since the early 1970’s,” Tolman said. “[T]his is unacceptable. This technology will prevent the most egregious and catastrophic accidents where hazardous materials or passenger trains are involved, protecting the public and railroad employees. PTC needs to move forward.”
SUPPORT FOR AMTRAK AND PASSENGER RAIL
With America’s continued population growth, passenger rail is in a good position to respond to our nation’s mobility needs by taking cars off the roads and passengers out of our nation’s airports, Tolman testified.
“Amtrak and other intercity and commuter railroads have done great work and continue to set ridership records. This is all while Amtrak is underfunded. In spite of this, they continue to make great strides in passenger rail. They have moved ahead with providing a version of positive train control that will help protect their employees and the public -- some of which has been in place since 1996.
“A national policy must take all factors into account, including connectivity and the ability to provide service nationwide. Amtrak was created to provide a National Rail Passenger System, not just to meet the demand and needs on the Northeast Corridor. Now is not the time to nickel and dime the system; now is the time to stimulate the economy and invest in jobs through the creation of a good rail passenger system throughout the nation. For every $1 billion invested, such a program could create 47,000 good-paying, middle class jobs.”
In addition to Vice President Tolman, additional witnesses delivering testimony were: Joseph Szabo, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration; Michael P. Melaniphy, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Public Transportation Association; Edward Hamberger, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of American Railroads; and Mike Lewis, Director, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, who testified on behalf of American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials.
BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked Brother Tolman for expertly and professionally representing the Brotherhood. A copy of Tolman’s testimony can be viewed at the BLET National Division website:
Thursday, June 27, 2013