The day before yesterday, I actually posted different versions of the same column one day apart. Shame on me. In my defense, we have visiting family here over the last week and my office is occupied by my brother-in-law. That leaves me bouncing back and forth from desktop to laptop and back to desktop. This, too, shall pass.
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Amtrak was created when the government decided to allow the private railroads to get out of the passenger business. As part of that deal, the freight railroads agreed to allow Amtrak trains on their tracks for reasonable compensation and—this is the key issue here—the passenger trains would be given preference.
But time flies and attitudes change. Over the past few decades, little by little, the freight railroads have pretty much stopped caring all that much if Amtrak trains run late over their tracks. Far more important that all those Chinese toaster ovens get where they’re going on time.
Ah, but just within the last three or four years, responsible members of Congress are becoming aware that Amtrak has a terrible on-time performance record and they are asking why. Of course the Rail Passengers Association has been more than glad to supply the facts and figures.
Members of Amtrak’s Board of Directors are nominted by the U.S. President and approved by the Senate. Some months ago, Mr. Trump nominated Todd Rokita, a former Republican member of Congress. Apparently, what appealed to President Trump was that, while in Congress, Mr. Rokita had voted against money for Amtrak at every opportunity. However, as is their right, two U.S. senators have slapped a “hold” on Rokita. Good! Now kick his sorry ass back out onto the street.
Finally—I’ve written about him here in other posts, but you should become acquainted with Mark Smith, the man behind the ultimate internet site for anyone who is into train travel. The name of his site is The Man in Seat 61 and—trust me on this—you’ll spend hours checking out trains everywhere in the world. But, specifically, Mark travels on trains all over the world and provides video of the interiors.
Attention Amtrak! Quality passenger equipment is being built!