The Federal Railroad Administration was created in 1966 to set and enforce railway safety standards. And certainly in terms of safety, the FRA has been wildly successful passenger rail is perhaps the safest mode of transport in the US. But many rail advocates argue that the FRA regulations have not only come at too high a price (by making rail prohibitively expensive) but in many cases are completely nonsensical.It's an old saw of the Left that the Railroads went out of business because they thought that they were in the railroad business, when in fact they were in the transportation business. OK, so which Progressives are willing to tell the Obama Administration that the FRA isn't in the Passenger Rail Safety business, but in the Transportation Safety business?
Then, in 1999 with Acela planning fully underway, the FRA pulled the rug out by issuing regulations for high-speed rail service requiring trains to withstand 800,000 pounds force without deformation. The 800,000 figure is an arbitrary number dating back to the 1920s; this mandate has since been increased to 1 million pounds.
The buffering requirement confounded Bombadier. Train weight is of crucial importance as it affects the amount of track wear, noise, and energy costs. To meet the buffering regulation, the train would have to be significantly bulked-up. The result was a highspeed train nearly twice as heavy as its European counterparts. As such, the Acela has been described variously as a tank-on-wheels and a bank-vault-on-wheels. Indeed, an overweight train like Acela would be banned from the European high speed rail network.
Because the extra weight put so much strain on the train body (which was never designed to handle suchloads) trainsets suffered excessive wheel wear, cracks in the yaw damper and brake rotors, and other problems which can probably never be completely fixed. Whereas the original contract called for trains to run 400,000 miles between equipment failures, the Acela can barely manage 20,000 miles.
And heaver trains are a lot more expensive to operate, which means higher fares and fewer trains running to fewer places. This in turn means travelers often resort to driving cars, which is 10-100 times more dangerous than rail travel. In other words, even if one accepts the premise that the excessive US buffering standards make train travel safer, they may in fact be counterproductive by diverting potential train riders to automobiles, causing many times more highway fatalities.
Observe the blinking, uncomprehending, cow-eyed return gaze of our Intellectual Betters. Philosopher Kings.
Guys, it's bad for the engine, brakes, and transmission when you floor both the gas pedal and the brake at the same time. You wonder why we don't have great High Speed Rail like Europe? Government regulation.
That popping noise you just heard is the sound of Progressive's heads exploding.