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Amtrak pays for private railroads screwups

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The Amtrak passenger rail line receives more than $1 billion in annual federal subsidies, but private railroads own 97 percent of the tracks upon which Amtrak trains travel.

As part of the relationship between the publicly financed passenger rail service and the private carriers, it’s the tax-supported railroad that will typically foot the legal bill when accidents happen – even when a private railroad is at fault, the Associated Press reported.

So as federal investigators look at how crews from privately owned CSX routed an Amtrak train into a parked freight train in Cayce, S.C., last weekend, tax-supported Amtrak will likely end up paying crash victims' legal claims with public money -- even if CSX should bear sole responsibility for the accident, AP reported.

Both Amtrak and freight railroads fight to keep their contracts secret in legal proceedings, AP reported. But whatever the precise legal language, plaintiffs' lawyers and former Amtrak officials say Amtrak generally bears the full cost of damages to its trains, passengers, employees and other crash victims -- even in instances where crashes occurred as the result of a freight rail company's negligence or misconduct.

Railroad industry advocates say that freight railways have ample incentive to keep their tracks safe for their employees, customers and investors. But the Surface Transportation Board and even some federal courts have long concluded that allowing railroads to escape liability for gross negligence is bad public policy.

“The freight railroads don't have an iron in the fire when it comes to making the safety improvements necessary to protect members of the public," said Bob Pottroff, a Manhattan, Kan., rail injury attorney who has sued CSX on behalf of an injured passenger from the Cayce crash. "They're not paying the damages." (Continue reading at link)


I'm a big train guy--always have been-----trains are my preferred way to travel.Often wondered why Amtrak in NE corridor has been in a financial crisis  since the 1970's as I recall.Here is one reason why perhaps.




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