Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mass. Congressional Committee Stands Up to CSX and a Letter to the Editor

According to an article from today's The Boston Globe, all twelve members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have sent a "strongly worded letter" to CSX "threatening legislation if the rail-freight giant continues to insist that it should not be held liable for the human cost of train accidents, even when it is at fault."
Despite repeated criticisms of its no-fault arrangements with Amtrak and passenger rail services in other parts of the country, CSX has demanded the same deal as a nonnegotiable part of a proposed sale of its tracks running between Worcester and Framingham.

Massachusetts officials, who are eager to buy the tracks and expand passenger rail service linking Worcester and Boston, have termed the provision outrageous and have labeled it a deal-breaker. Now federal lawmakers have stepped in and are threatening hearings and legislative remedies.

Under the proposed no-fault arrangement, if one of the MBTA's commuter-rail trains crashed and CSX were determined to be at fault, the company would be liable for train and track damage, but not for passenger injuries or deaths. Critics say the provision would protect CSX even if one of its employees was found to have been drinking or using drugs on the job.

"That is a stupid deal to get into," said US Representative James McGovern. "It's nuts."

The letter, sent by Senator John Kerry and signed by the entire delegation noted:
"Expansion of commuter rail service is enormously important to us and our constituents, and we believe that an agreement can be reached without the need for federal interference. However, in the event that no progress is made in the short term, we are prepared to consider congressional action, including potential legislative solutions mandating what is acceptable in freight-commuter rail contracts."
Why is this important? Well, for riders of the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line, if this issue can resolve it could mean more service between Worcester and Boston.
State officials, led by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, are pushing to double the number of commuter trains serving Worcester, Grafton, Westborough, Southborough, and Ashland. The Worcester-to-Framingham corridor, however, is one of the few stretches of track used by the MBTA's contractor, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., that is not controlled by the state.
In other news, also from The Globe, a Lynn resident sent in a "Letter to the Editor" about the April 6th Globe article on the proposed Blue Line expansion.

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