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Passenger rail advocates call for emergency review of Amtrak service contract

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The State of Washington should conduct an emergency review of the contract between the state Department of Transportation and Amtrak following Monday’s Amtrak Cascades 501 derailment near Dupont, WA, according to Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute today.

“Amtrak is the vendor of the rail service under contract with Washington and Oregon, though many people wrongly suppose that the trains belong to Amtrak,” said Bruce Agnew, director of the Institute’s Cascadia Center. “It is time to review that contract. Our number one concern should be safety.”

“Two accidents in Washington State in six months,” said Agnew, “underscore last month’s warning by National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt, who said that ‘Amtrak safety culture is failing and is primed to fail again…'” Sumwalt was referring to a 2016 accident in Pennsylvania that killed two railroad workers. The crash in Washington State this week killed three passengers.

Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute has long called for consideration of alternative management companies, such as those handling intercity passenger rail in Connecticut and various commuter systems in California, Florida and Texas.

Discovery Institute Board Chair Bruce Chapman, who was a member of the federal Amtrak Reform Council in 2001, said, “This week’s catastrophe should be laid at the feet of Amtrak, not the state. But the state needs to take up the issue of management.”

“The emergency review should examine issues of safety, operations, service and costs of Amtrak on the Cascade Corridor,” Agnew said. “In addition, alternative operators should be invited.”

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Chief Assignment editor is OlegSziakov