Richard Anderson, Amtrak’s new CEO, is a former airline executive. After six months on the job and a spate of fatal derailments, he now realizes “we have got to bring the same safety culture you have at an airline to the railroad industry of America.” Great idea.
So let’s start with this: airline pilots have a right to decline flying if they are sick or unduly fatigued, so why not the same for locomotive engineers? And how about providing a co-pilot in the locomotive cab as back up and a second set of eyes to spot switches and avoid any loss of situational awareness? And how about actually encouraging employees to report safety hazards instead of retaliating against them when they do?
The bottom line is, airlines don’t play Russian Roulette with safety. But to railroads like Amtrak, playing Russian Roulette is a way of life, and inevitable death.