Passenger Rail News Briefs

Trucker in Bourbonnais crash gets prison time

Former truck driver John R. Stokes was sentenced to 2 years in prison for his role in a 1999 Amtrak derailment near Bourbonnais that killed 11 people and injured 121 others.

Stokes was convicted of keeping false records and driving too long without rest. Kankakee County Judge Clark Erickson said that although there were a variety of factors contributing to the accident - including problems with the warning signals and gates at the crossing - Stokes bears some responsibility and should serve time. There was no doubt, the judge said, that Stokes was driving while tired and fatigue factored into his quick decision to try and cross the tracks.

Amtrak's City of New Orleans was moving at the legal speed of 79 mph when it crashed into Stokes' semitrailer. Prosecutors said Stokes, 64, told investigators he stopped at home to rest before the accident, but gas receipts show he was, in fact, on the road.

(From the Chicago Tribune.)

Amtrak sets record year

For the second year in a row, Amtrak has posted its highest ridership ever. The federally subsidized railroad, a continual source of debate in Congress, carried 25,053,564 passengers nationwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That's a 4.3 percent increase over last year's ridership of 24,028,119 - the previous record-setting total for the 33-year-old Amtrak system.

Meanwhile, four state-supported "corridor" routes that Amtrak operates within Illinois each saw increases in ridership. So did cross-country, or long-distance, trains that pass through Illinois, including the San Antonio-bound "Texas Eagle" that stops in Springfield.

Amtrak racked up its biggest numbers despite having to suspend some train service due to the recent Florida hurricanes.

(From Copley News Service.)



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