Murdoch’s WSJ Doesn’t Like PTC.
It may simply be my instinct to look for ulterior motives whenever Rupert Murdoch’s fingers touch anything, but I do believe the venerable Wall Street Journal has slid farther to the right since Murdoch acquired it. Bolstering that view, I’ve come across a recent article in the WSJ relating to passenger rail which included information presented without context and with, I think, deceit.
It was a piece about Positive Train Control which contained the following:
A month after a deadly train accident in 2008, Congress forced passenger and many freight railroads to install technology called positive train control, or PTC, by Dec. 31 of this year. The unwieldy $13 billion or more apparatus would prevent fewer than 5% of accidents, according to estimates.
Whoa! The WSJ is saying it’s not right for government to force the railroads to shell out literally billions of dollars if the system will prevent only 5% of the railroad accidents?
OK, let’s assume the five-percent number is correct. But now let’s ask what kind of “train accidents” are we talking about? A hard bump in a rail yard that does $500 worth of damage to a baggage car? PTC wouldn’t prevent that. A derailment of six cars with only one train involved and no one hurt? PTC probably wouldn’t prevent that, either.
But a very small percentage of railroad accidents are serious collisions, with major property damage, injuries and even loss of life. Those are the accidents we want to prevent! And PTC is designed to prevent 100 percent of them. Do we really care if they’re only 5 percent of the total?
In my view, this article is not much more than another screed from the “we hate the intrusive government” crowd. If the freight railroads thought PTC would be a waste of their money, they would have screamed bloody murder. The fact is, once implemented, the PTC system will be a positive for them as well as for Amtrak because it will enable their freight trains to run faster and closer together.
In fact, I’ll bet the freights are up on The Hill as we speak, going door to door, trying to get the big bad government to help them pay for PTC. And the thing is, they are right about that, too, because PTC is an unfunded mandate for something that is a matter of public safety. Unfortunately, the Wall Street Journal, seeing the issue through ideology-colored glasses, tries to make it appear that intrusive government is once again forcing a huge, unnecessary expense on private industry.
Huge, maybe. But unnecessary? No way!