Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Step Back on The Train

Yesterday, I wrote about Amtrak’s ongoing difficulties and its lame attempt to use the 9/11 terrorist attacks to bolster support for its 30 years of failure. But I forgot to mention a $200 million lawsuit recently filed by the French-Canadian consortium, Bombardier Inc, which alleges that Amtrak’s indecision and failure to abide by its terms of an agreement to build a high speed rail system were responsible for huge cost overruns.

The bottom line over the suit is simple — the high speed trains aren’t very high speed. In fact on some parts of the route that they serve, they actually go slower than the conventional trains that Amtrak took out of service. Both Amtrak and Bombardier are playing the blame game.

Amtrak maintains that Bombardier constantly delayed the project and couldn’t meet Amtrak’s performance requirements. Bombardier, meanwhile, maintains that Amtrak took ridiculously long to make even the most basic of decisions and lied about the quality of its existing track.

According to its lawsuit, for example, Amtrak took two years to decide on the draperies for passenger-car windows, and spent 18 months deciding on what sort of chime to use to alert passengers that doors were closing.

Of bigger concern, Bombardier claims that it repeatedly told Amtrak that the poor quality of its track in some areas would make operating the train at high speeds dangerous. Amtrak insists that since the track was approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, it should have been good enough for Bombardier.

Of course if a government bureaucrat says its safe, it must be so!


Maker of high-speed train sues Amtrak for $200 million. Don Phillips, Washington Post, November 9, 2001.

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