Passenger Rail News Briefs

Amtrak, TCU reach tentative contract

Amtrak and the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), which represents 5,000 Amtrak employees, have reached a tentative contract agreement.

Details of the agreement were not released pending ratification by TCU members. The group represents about 25 percent of Amtrak workers.

According to the Washington Post, Amtrak is looking for concessions from its employees on work rules as part of an aggressive drive to cut costs, improve efficiency and obtain another round of federal subsidies.

The tentative deal with the TCU, which covers ticket and reservations agents, baggage handlers and clerical employees, is the first successful contract renegotiation under the cost-cutting initiative Amtrak began earlier this year with its 13 unionized bargaining groups.

The agreement is retroactive to January 2000 and runs through December 2004.

"This contract represents the best possible settlement given Amtrak's precarious situation," TCU International President Robert Scardelletti said in a statement. "Going to an Emergency Board appointed by President Bush would be insane in light of his plan to dismantle Amtrak altogether."

(The Washington Post contributed to this report.)

NTSB cites CSX tracks in 2002 Auto Train derailment

A failure by CSX Transportation crews to properly maintain railroad tracks - which were already in substandard condition - caused the derailment of Amtrak's Auto Train near Crescent City, Fla., last year that killed four people, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said.

The northbound train, with 413 passengers and 33 crew members, derailed April 18, 2002, as it rounded a curve. At the time, it was operating over CSX tracks under contract with the freight railroad. The Amtrak engineer reported seeing the track badly out of alignment just ahead of him.

The board offered a laundry list of mistakes, improper procedures and substandard work by CSX maintenance crews that it said was directly responsible for the wreck, which also injured 142 people. The board also said CSX managers failed to oversee maintenance standards.

CSX did not dispute the report. It said it had implemented the recommendations made by the board, including a quality-control program to ensure that maintenance personnel follow CSX standards.

The NTSB said the track on the curve where the accident occurred failed to meet minimum standards before the accident. Among other things, there was insufficient ballast to make certain that the track was restrained during passage of trains. Also, the track had an insufficient number of rail anchors, and some were improperly installed.

(The Washington Post contributed to this report.)



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers