Our highways are not owned by trucking companies. Our skies are not owned by the airlines. These public assets are part of “The Commons,” and are managed by officials accountable to We The People.
Why should railroads be any different? Why should private corporations control these vital corridors, often in violation of the public interest?
When corporate bosses demand that decrepit trains keep moving, private rail inspectors end up sacrificing public safety at the altar of profit.
Even though passenger traffic has priority by law, Amtrak riders often find their trains parked on sidings waiting for coal trains to pass.
It’s time for rail corridors to be transferred to public control, and for traffic management and safety inspections to be overseen by responsible public servants.
The railroads that we know still have a role to play. Just as trucks and planes are privately owned, existing carriers would continue to own locomotives and rolling stock. They would own their switching yards, employ train crews, and do rail construction and maintenance under government contract.
But the main line track must become part of our national infrastructure. The railroads should be fairly compensated for their investment in the tracks and other infrastructure, but this is not insurmountable.
Railroads are a vital component of our national transportation system, and their importance is growing. Private corporations have repeatedly violated the public trust, so railroads must come under the same public oversight that applies to highways and skyways.