Thursday, September 28, 2006

And Who's Being Too Careful

We thought that this article from Central Illinois would be a good follow-up to our rant about unreasonable judicial practices and liability for accidents costing Passenger Rail a lot of money. It's about the high-speed corridor from Chicago to St. Louis that has been in the mill for almost a decade now.

The article rightly points out that this line has been ready for an increase in speed for some time. We know this personally, as we have seen the high-speed protection gates and other amenities that were added in the late 90s. Still there are no high-speed trains. Not even higher-speed trains.

Besides costs related to high insurance rates and unreasonably high settlements and/or judgments, this is another way that unreasonable claims hurt Passenger Rail. The operators and the government have to be way too careful because of the possibility of lawsuits if there is an accident.

Competing standards for automatic train stop do not help here either. Competing designs are great for free enterprise, but pick the wrong one and you are stuck with a Betamax or an 8-track. (And perhaps with a Blu-ray.) So there are reasons to be careful in making a choice, but to delay a choice because to not have a standard would leave you open to liability is just pathetic.

A reader posts a point that 79mph or 110mph in a collision probably does not make one helluva difference. We agree. So while waiting for competing standards to resolve, the real reason for the wait is probably political, not safety as stated. "Safety" just gives the politician a good excuse.

Some other reader comments are informative, though some are just plain stupid. There's one from a NIMBY that doesn't make any sense, and some suggesting that drivers that attempt going around gates get what they deserve. That's stupid, too. Do passengers get what they deserve if the train derails at high speed when Dumbo does it around the gates?

There is one perceptive comment from The Emperor Has No Clothes that goes back to what we have been proposing in these blog posts. But let's not just give Passenger Rail priority, let's separate freight from passenger. There will be no true next-generation, high-speed or not, if we don't separate freight from passenger. The Illinois project isn't going to do that, and it is just a revamp.


© 2006 - C. A. Turek -

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