NARP Calls on House of Representatives to Provide Dedicated Rail Funding for a Safer System

Release #15-11

For Immediate Release (#15-11)

Contact: Benet J. Wilson
202-408-8362, ext. 3203

June 2, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers says the best way to make American train travelers safer is to provide a predictable, dedicated source of funding for passenger trains that is robust enough to meet the needs of an aging infrastructure. The recommendation was made in response to a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing held today on the derailment of Amtrak Train #188 on May 12.

Dedicated funding will help states and passenger rail operators to build a safer and more efficient rail system. It will also extend the planning horizon for transportation providers by improving project management and lowering overall design-build costs. NARP feels that Americans should be able to count on the fact that when they board a train, they are riding the safest passenger rail system in the world.

While the men and women of Amtrak are doing a good job of providing safe a service for their passengers, they have been saddled with 40 years of underinvestment. They need more help from Congress to do even better. When Americans are able to choose to travel by train, they are safer than people who have no alternative to highways.

A recent survey of transportation safety data found that traveling by Amtrak or commuter rail is 17 times safer than traveling in a car or light truck, while transit rail is more than 30 times safer, based on passenger fatalities per billion passenger miles. When frequencies are increased, capacity is added through new equipment, and train service is restored to communities that have been denied a choice in how to travel, it saves American lives.

"All Americans deserve to ride safe trains, wherever they ride them,” said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. "Let's not get distracted from the larger safety truth: that wherever Americans can choose between driving and the train, they opt for the train, which is 17 times safer than hitting the highways. This means that simply investing in rail, either intercity or commuter transit, gives travelers and commuters safer choices -- choices denied to the hundreds of thousands of riders who have had their options taken away by service cuts or suspended routes."

Those testifying at today’s hearing included: NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart; Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman; Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration Sarah Feinberg; and President, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen President Dennis Pierce.

About the National Association of Railroad Passengers

NARP is the only national organization speaking for the users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.