Happening Now

Hotline #663-A

April 11, 1991

An accident has tied up the Northeast Corridor all day today. At 3:00 am, a northbound deadhead move of Amtrak locomotives -- one F40 pulling three E60's -- skidded into a southbound 120-car Conrail coal train at Gunpowder interlocking near Chase, Md., just north of Baltimore. No passengers or passenger equipment were involved. The Amtrak engineer was seriously injured, the conductor less so. They had both jumped from the F40. Amtrak hoped to open one track by midday; in the meantime, passengers are shuttled by bus between Baltimore and Wilmington, resulting in delays of 60-90 minutes. Gunpowder, of course, is the site of the serious wreck of 1987, but it is still too early to determine what caused today's wreck.

In the likely event of a national freight railroad strike on April 17, the labor community has offered to allow passenger trains to continue to operate. That is probably not a grand gesture on their part, but rather an attempt to keep Congress from intervening very soon. However, the railroads, who like the Presidential Emergency Board plan much more than do the unions, probably would like Congress to step in soon and impose that plan. Therefore, they are unlikely to allow movement of passenger trains despite the unions' offer. Also, it is uncertain whether Amtrak and commuter employees would be willing to cross picket lines in any event.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Communications Union and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen may have reached a tentative agreement with railroad management. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers have said they would go ahead and strike selected railroads on April 17. The other eight unions have indicated they would follow the BLE's lead. Members of unions that have agreed to a contract will not cross other unions' picket lines. Congress is back in session and Chairman Dingell (D.-Mich.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, along with Representative Swift (D.-Wash.), chairman of the transportation subcommittee, have put their staffs and colleagues on alert to take fast action if necessary.