Passenger Rail News Briefs...

TTD tells Senate to support, not weaken, Amtrak

Calling on Congress and the Bush Administration to make a long-term investment in Amtrak rather than dismantle it through "bureaucratic shell games" and flawed privatization schemes, Sonny Hall, President of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department (TTD), told a Senate panel that Amtrak should receive at least $1.8 billion in federal funding for Fiscal Year 2004.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Hall said, "our nation must make a serious and long-term financial commitment to Amtrak. We must recognize that Amtrak is a public service - just like highways, transit, and other infrastructure - that should serve the public's transportation needs and not be driven by profit motives." He stated that federal highway spending is 43 times greater than rail, aviation 20 times higher, and transit 8 times as much.

Hall, who as International President of the Transport Workers Union represents thousands of Amtrak's 23,000 workers, said employees have sacrificed for years to keep the trains running, to the point where their wages have fallen approximately 20 percent below those in freight and commuter rail. Hall said that "transportation labor will insist that the jobs and livelihoods of Amtrak employees are not ignored or cast aside and that new collective bargaining agreements are completed without further delay." He said the labor movement would oppose any Amtrak financing legislation that "turns its back on Amtrak workers."

In his testimony, Hall strongly supported a study released in early June by the Economic Policy Institute, Amtrak Privatization: The Route to Failure, which rejects proposals - similar to those advanced by the Bush Administration - to restructure and privatize Amtrak. Instead, it calls for substantially greater public investment in Amtrak to improve the quality and breadth of service.

The study - available at - examines the 1994-1996 privatization of British rail which led to rampant delays, increased accident rates, and higher fares. Hall said that not only has the British government reversed course and re-nationalized passenger rail, but that the leaders of the political party responsible for privatizing the trains have promised that, if it were to get back into power, it would not do it again.

(From the TTD)

Grenade seized in D.C.'s Union Station

A man who brandished a hand grenade during a robbery attempt at Union Station was arrested on June 9 after an Amtrak police officer grabbed the partially activated device from him.

Amtrak Police Officer Rodney Chambers clasped a safety catch for at least 15 minutes to prevent any explosion.

A homeless man who has a record of drug arrests was charged in the incident, said Terrance W. Gainer, chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. Police accused the man, identified as Juann Tubbs, 38, of assault and attempted robbery while armed. "This man is in need of mental help," Gainer said.

It was later revealed that the grenade, one of two in the man's possession, was not a live weapon. Nevertheless, Officer Chambers was considered a hero for his bravery, as was U.S. Capitol Police Officer Michael DeCarlo.

(From the Washington Post)

New PATH stations on schedule

Less than two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks destroyed much of the PATH system, the Port Authority announced an ambitious $544 million plan to rebuild it in 24 months.

Now, the agency is prepared to reopen the Exchange Place station on June 29 -- on schedule -- and the World Trade Center station in November -- ahead of schedule.

"It turns out we make good guesstimates in 2001 but we're making even better progress than we expected," said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "As a result, we're going to be able to push the opening (of the World Trade Center station) up by about a month, to November, probably late November, from December."

For commuters from Orange and Rockland counties, the news that the WTC station will reopen ahead of schedule has a special resonance. NJ Transit, which operates Metro-North Railroad's west-of-Hudson trains, has now tied the much-delayed opening of the Secaucus transfer to this restoration of PATH service.

The $450 million transfer station, under construction since 1995, will give upstate commuters a choice of destinations for the first time ­ a choice that has become more critical since 9/11 because so many companies have relocated to Midtown from lower Manhattan.

(From the Bergen Record)

Woman who lost legs sues Caltrain

A woman has sued Caltrain, claiming the rail line is responsible for a train striking her and severing both her legs last summer.

Helen Coneff is seeking unspecified damages for mental suffering, permanent disability, medical expenses and lost work time in the suit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court on June 4.

The suit also names the County, Caltrain's board of directors and Amtrak, which contracts to operate the rail line.

Coneff was waiting for a southbound train at the San Carlos station last June when the 37-year old was hit by a train as it pulled into the station. Exactly how the accident occurred remains sketchy.

(From the San Mateo County Times)


© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers