Dianne Feinstein’s husband owns part of the railroad industry. How does
that connection affect rail road safety issues.
- Do politicians stop train safety projects for political reasons, 60 Minutes says they do on their most recent episode.
- Dianne Feinstein arranged funding for Solyndra and Tesla. Her husband got the adjacent railroad property and construction contracts.
- She got funding for the new California train. His company got to build it.
- Over 40 suspicious conflicts of interest. Now, other suppliers are speaking out.
- A horrible series of train accidents gets people talking:
A Message from President and CEO Joe Boardman Regarding Restoration of
Service on the Northeast Corridor
“At Amtrak, the safety of our passengers and crew remains our number one
priority. Since the tragic derailment, Amtrak staff and crew have been
working around the clock to repair the infrastructure necessary to restore
service for all the passengers who travel along the Northeast Corridor.
Our repairs have been made with the utmost care and emphasis on safety,
including complete compliance with Federal Railroad Administration
Effective with departures from Philadelphia at 5:53 a.m. (Train 110) and
New York City at 5:30 a.m. (Train 111) on Monday, May 18, Amtrak will
restore normal service on the Northeast Corridor.
Although service along the Northeast Corridor will begin again tomorrow,
the derailment of Northeast Regional Train 188 is a tragedy that we at
Amtrak will continue to mourn and are dedicated to learning from.
Thank you for your support of America’s Railroad.
Joe Boardman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Insular U.S. Rail Industry Impedes Innovative Outsiders
By Robert J. Ahern –
Small, innovative companies in the U.S. are coming up with answers to some
of the most pressing and persistent problems on America’s railways. But
they’re being stonewalled at every turn by a hidebound, insular rail
Rail travel, for both freight and passengers, is safer now than it has
ever been. Yet the industry has been unable — or unwilling — to fix some
issues. Failure of wheel bearings is one of them. Another is the
accidental uncoupling of cars.
In both of these cases, smart, independent companies have devised
solutions only to be rebuffed by a railroad industry that is protective of
its own suppliers and hostile to ideas that come from outside its closed
culture. This behavior puts lives and freight at unnecessary risk.
After years of being frustrated by the rail industry at every turn,
companies with new ideas have little choice but to turn to the federal
government. Legislation is pending in Congress that would require the
Federal Railroad Administration — the government agency that oversees the
rail industry — to adopt and enforce mandatory safety standards that
would ensure bearing failures, decoupling and other accidents do not
happen. This would permit railroads to use any technology, from inside or
outside the industry, that meets the standards.
Why is this needed? Consider the case of Columbus Castings, of Columbus,
In 2008, the railroad industry, acknowledging that trains still
accidentally uncouple, set a standard that any manufacturer must meet if
it designed a device that would fix the problem.
Columbus Castings invented the Z-Knuckle, which prevents uncoupling. It
met the industry’s new standard. But in a strange twist, the industry
refused to back the Z-Knuckle’s use because it was the only device that
met the standard. Instead, it simply chose not to enforce the standard.
Never mind that Columbus Castings is the country’s largest steel foundry
and a maker of steel for many uses.
Several companies, including Amsted Rail, Standard Truck Car, National
Railway Equipment and A. Stucki Co., have created advanced trucks — the
framework that holds a rail car’s four wheels — that are less likely to
derail and use less energy, due to enhanced suspension. But these have
been rejected by the railroad industry as well.
Likewise, the industry has shunned electronically controlled pneumatic
braking systems that not only stop a train in a much shorter distance in
an emergency, but give the engineer constant, real-time feedback on the
train’s braking system. Stage 8 Locking Fasteners of San Rafael, Calif.,
also a railroad industry outsider, has come up with an inexpensive
solution that would virtually eliminate bearing-failure derailments. And,
as with Columbus Castings, the railroad industry has stood in the way of
safety and technology improvements.
Failure of wheel bearings — the round, metal rods inside a rail car’s
wheel assembly that help the wheels roll smoothly — are the nation’s
third-largest cause of train derailments, according to a 2012 University
of Illinois study. Only broken rails and track irregularities cause more
Bearing failure typically leads to derailments. In the worst cases,
derailments can cause injury, community disruption and death. These
derailments happen because the screws holding the bearing end caps (which
maintain proper tension in the bearing) vibrate loose after thousands of
miles of service. The rail industry has tried for half a century to devise
a reliable screw-locking technology of its own, but has not been able to
do so. The best system the rail industry has been able to come up with
allows a failure rate of 23 percent. That isn’t good enough.
A better system was devised in 2009. Stage 8 invented the Cap Screw
Locking System, which keeps rail or tank car wheel bearing end-cap screws
from vibrating loose. But as soon as the invention was unveiled, the rail
industry bureaucracy withheld approval of the product. The rail industry
then demanded a field test for the Stage 8 device. After 150,000 miles of
testing on the industry’s own cars, the locking device showed no failures
at all. And yet, the FRA and the Association of American Railroads
continues to withhold approval.
So, who’s really running our railroads? It’s time for Congress to step in.
Robert J. Ahern is director and executive vice president of Stage 8
Locking Fasteners Inc.
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