Who’s REALLY to Blame for This?

Well, It was the second accident involving an Amtrak train in a matter of something like six weeks, both involving fatalities and a bunch of injuries. That was bad enough, but then South Carolina’s governor, Henry McMaster, made it worse. “It appears,” he said, “Amtrak was on the wrong track.”
Nope. Let the record show that Saturday’s accident wasn’t Amtrak’s fault. The tracks where the accident occurred are owned by CSX, the freight railroad, and the movements of all trains using those tracks are controlled by CSX dispatchers.

Photo credit: Tim Dominick/The State via AP

A CSX freight was directed to leave the main line and moved onto a siding, thus clearing the main line for the southbound Amtrak train. Unfortunately, the switch was not changed and the Amtrak train was sent onto the siding and into the parked freight. BOOM! Two fatalities—an Amtrak conductor and the engineer—a bunch of injuries, and literally millions in property damage.
Once again, an Amtrak passenger train is involved in an accident that most probably would have been avoided if Positive Train Control (known as PTC) had been installed along that section of track.
Ten years ago, Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 which required railroads—and that meant all railroads—to equip their trains and tracks with the PTC technology. The trouble is, that mandate included no federal money to help pay for the system. Zero. Zip. Nada. And the total cost will be well in excess of $10 billion.
There is no doubt that someone screwed up badly—most probably a CSX dispatcher will shoulder most of the blame—but as far as I’m concerned, the real culprits are the members of Congress who made PTC the law, but didn’t pony up a dime to help pay for it.