I love trains. It’s one of those childhood passions that I never got over. But I’m beginning to hate Amtrak (search).
In a stroke of bad luck, I had been planning to take two trips on the high-speed Acela (search) train this week, just as Amtrak announced that all 20 Acela trains would be sidelined till later this summer with cracked brakes.
How did this happen? The bureaucrats who manage Amtrak demanded that the trains be made twice as heavy as they were designed so that they’d hold up better if they crashed. The extra weight is straining everything from the train’s brakes to the track bed.
The irony here is that the Acela was supposed to be a moneymaker. Every year the company loses $1 billion, and their only solution is to ask for more tax dollars. The Acela was supposed to breathe a little profit into the company. Now, it’ll drag Amtrak down even further.
I’ve got no beef with the engineers and conductors who make the trains work. These folks work hard and are very often lifesavers. But the managers of Amtrak and the politicians who micromanage the company are killing it. The solution? Here’s the most obvious one from a free marketer, quoted in The Boston Globe (search): "Ultimately it's going to take private management to make Amtrak work." Until then, we train lovers may be forced to take the bus.
And that’s the Observer.
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