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On Monday December 18, the Amtrak Cascades 501 headed out on its inaugural trip on a new route in Washington state when it ran off the tracks near DuPont, sending 13 cars into traffic on busy Interstate 5 below. The train carried 86 people and at this writing at least three are dead and more than 100 injured. As the Seattle Times reports, the engineer was running the train at 80 mph in a 30-mph zone. The $181 million retrofit on the railway line was to included Positive Train Control technology that can prevent excessive speed. Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson told reporters that PTC is not yet operating in that area.
As we noted, despite a 2008 mandate, Amtrak bosses have failed to install PTC on busy routes. In May 2015 near Philadelphia, engineer Brandon Bostian hurtled Amtrak 188 through a 50-mph curve at a full 106 miles per hour, more than twice the limit. The ensuing crash killed eight people and injured more than 100. Bostian claimed his train was “under attack by projectiles,” which caused him to be “disoriented” and he National Transportation Safety Board offered a version of that far-fetched theory. Bostian even filed a personal injury suit against Amtrak, which duly placed him on unpaid administrative leave. The speedy government employee faced eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of causing or risking a catastrophe, and 238 counts of reckless endangerment, but this September, a judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to warrant a criminal trial.
At this writing, neither Amtrak nor the National Transportation Safety Board has named the Cascades 501 engineer. Based on the even deadlier Philadelphia crash, Amtrak is not likely to fire that person, and dismissal of any Amtrak bosses is even less likely, if not impossible. Even in cases of multiple fatalities, government employees and bureaucrats alike enjoy special protection. Amtrak agreed to pay $265 million to settle victims’ claims in the 2015 crash, so taxpayers should expect similar massive payouts in the recent case. Taxpayers should also recall that Amtrak is certified money loser, requiring some $1 billion in subsidies every year. America’s government rail system remains insolvent and unsafe at any speed.