Amtrak Train Derailmentby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2015-05-14
REID. Mr. President, as I said yesterday, my heart goes out to
those who suffered in the terrible accident of Amtrak's Northeast
Regional Train No. 188, on Tuesday night at 9 p.m., when the accident
occurred. As we now know, the train was going more than 100 miles an
hour on a curve where it should have been going 50 miles an hour.
It is very tragic. Seven people died and scores are injured. There were about 250 people on the train. It is unfortunate that sometimes it takes an event such as this before policymakers learn what they need to learn. But worse still would be if policymakers fail to learn anything at all.
National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said there is technology available called positive train control that would have prevented this accident. That technology is in place in a few places in the Northeast corridor. This Northeast corridor, millions of people travel there, but it is not yet in place where the accident happened.
There are Members of the Republican Senate who have for years denigrated, belittled, and harmed the Amtrak system. I have watched this, and it is really unfair. They attack Amtrak every year, every appropriations process. Many on the far right regularly try to punch the Nation's train system right in the gut. They have made it a punching bag.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved a bill that underfunds Amtrak by another one-quarter of a billion dollars. The day after that tragic accident, they say: We are going to help Amtrak by cutting spending by another one-quarter of a billion dollars.
A nation's train system can be efficient and productive. It can be a point of national pride, but too often neglect of Amtrak has left America's train system a disappointing embarrassment. Amtrak is a vital part of our Nation's economy, and everyone should understand that. It helps--I repeat--millions and millions of people get where they need to go. It takes cars off congested highways. It takes people away from airports.
For the safety of rail passengers, for the business it helps to foster, and for the reputation of our great Nation, I hope we can learn to invest more in this important national resource. They need more, not less.