Thursday, June 27, 2013

Teamster tells Congress why Amtrak needs funding

Amtrak desperately needs long-term funding, but Republicans in the House of Representatives want to cut federal spending on Amtrak by 29 percent and eliminate funding for high speed rail.

Brother John Tolman from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen today urged members of Congress to support long-term funding for Amtrak. Tolman was speaking on behalf of 37,000 active BLET members and over 70,000 Rail Conference members. He told the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials subcommittee:
The BLET supports of the concept of a unified national plan for our nation’s passenger and freight railroads, as it is consistent with our desire for long-term planning and financing of rail. It also is imperative that any National Rail Policy would protect the interests of the men and women who work in the railroad industry. 
In order for our nation to meet the economic and environmental challenges that we face, we must continue to invest in infrastructure and to develop and plan for new means to get goods and people from place to place, in the most fuel efficient means possible; Rail clearly is the best means of doing this.
Tolman cited Amtrak's successes:
On the passenger side, Amtrak and other intercity and commuter railroads, and its employees, have the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop, implement and grow passenger rail in this country. They have done great work and continue to set ridership records, across the US. Passenger rail is a great example of the old quote (Field of Dreams) “if you build it, they will come”. On Amtrak, this cycle of underfunding must end, they desperately need long term funding.
And he pleaded for safety:
Too often, cost benefit analysis is used as the sole objection against moving ahead on a Rail Safety Projects.  
If we could rewind time and freeze the moment before any fatal accident — such as Macdona, Texas or Graniteville, NC, occurred and talk to that train crew, or residents,  who among us would like to explain them that they would die in the accident, not from the accident itself but from smoke or hazardous materials inhalation because the Congressionally-mandated emergency escape breathing apparatus or switch point indicators failed a cost benefit analysis?  
Let’s work to implement feasible, protective safety opportunities for the public and the employees. As Ed Hamburger, testified last week in the Senate, and stated “Job Safety is the number 1 issue, for the industry.” Let’s walk the walk and talk the talk, and get things done together.
You can join the chorus of voices urging adequate funding for Amtrak and high-speed rail by sending a letter to Congress here.