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Trains

A Life In Transit: ‘What You Can Get Is Set By How Far You Are Prepared To Go’

Track workers and train operators could stop work over safety. Making the community aware of risks to hospitals and schools built important support—but we won because we had learned the work rules and organized transit workers to implement them. When something hits the tripping device on the undercarriage, it stops the train. The operator has to walk around the entire train, plus a reasonable length behind, to see what stopped it. Sometimes the operator would call the supervisor to investigate before proceeding; that was one way of stopping work over safety. Because of actions like this, management had to replace the walkways in the tunnels, which were made of old wood that would rot. Now they are all fiberglass and yellow. Exact work-to-rule is the basis of a slowdown. Sometimes it was as effective as a strike.

Virginia Finalizes $3.7 Billion Deal To Acquire Train Tracks

Virginia officials and freight railroad company CSX have signed a $525 million deal to transfer 223 miles of track and 386 miles of right-of-way to the commonwealth, a key part of a larger $3.7 billion program announced in 2019 to increase Amtrak passenger service and VRE commuter rail service in Virginia over the next decade. “Today, we’re celebrating a major, major milestone in our work to make it easier for people and goods to move around Virginia and up and down our East Coast,” said Gov. Ralph Northam, who stood alongside officials from CSX, Amtrak and VRE during a signing ceremony at a VRE station in Alexandria on Tuesday. Tracks in America are almost universally owned by freight railroads, which allow passenger service like Amtrak and VRE to operate.

Federal Judge Blocks Strike By Union Pacific Railroad Workers

A federal judge in Nebraska issued a temporary restraining order last week to block a December 28 strike by thousands of Union Pacific Railroad (UP) workers over unsafe conditions, the lack of protective gear and the failure to pay workers who are quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A strike by 8,000 members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWED)—a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters—would have quickly disrupted the operations of the second largest railroad in the US, which employs a total of 32,000 workers. The judge’s restriction lasts until January 8 and will be reviewed for extension on January 5.

Welsh Government Announces Nationalisation Of Rail Service

The Welsh government has decided to nationalise its railways following a significant drop in passenger numbers because of coronavirus (Covid-19). The country’s transport minister Ken Skates said bringing day-to-day rail services for its Wales and Borders franchise under public control would help secure the future of passenger services and protect jobs. Private firm KeolisAmey, a joint venture between French transport giant Keolis and Amey, has run the franchise in Wales for just two years after taking it over from Arriva Trains Wales.

Solutionary Rail In A Time Of Pandemic

CoViD-19 is a confluence of crises that further exacerbates inequities and exposes societal and economic vulnerabilities. Our latest RailBite, Solutionary Rail in a Time of Pandemic explores how this moment of crisis is also an opportunity to address those vulnerabilities, as well as one of the underlying causes of this and future pandemics, i.e. climate change, by undertaking a transformational national infrastructure project. Solutionary Rail offers a pathway to tackle some of the most difficult decarbonization challenges while improving public health, delivering environmental justice, and rebuilding local & national economic vitality. The recent House Transportation Committee's Moving Forward Act (MFA) and the House Climate Action Plan (HCAP) address some important challenges, but leave many of the most difficult problems unresolved. 

Solutionary Rail: “Higher” Speed Rail

Currently, the buzzword for rail travel is “High Speed Rail.” The term is being used broadly, but what does it mean? Brightline in Florida is being called “high speed,” even though it travels at just 79 mph. So what is High Speed Rail and what are our best options? What about freight transportation – should the bulk of freight continue to be carried by trucks? Drilling down a little, there’s a difference between ultra-high speed bullet train rail, high speed rail, and what Solutionary Rail advocates, “higher speed rail”...

Commonsense, Adequate Funding Would Have Prevented Train Wreck

It has been a week now since Amtrak Train #188 derailed at speed east of Philadelphia, PA. The last week has witnessed endless speculation as the official investigation into the cause of the derailment continues apace. Those of us in the rail industry anxiously await the findings. If we are serious about preventing future catastrophes of this nature, we must equip railroad workers with the necessary tools – including but not limited to those outlined above -- to enable them to perform the job safely. Pointing fingers at this or that employee (at any level in the company, union or management) might make some folks feel better, but it does little or nothing to prevent future accidents. Railroad Workers United believes it is time we learn from these terrible tragedies and get serious about implementing the necessary measures to ensure safe railroad operations.
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