Amtrak Crash in Virginia Injures One

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Around 6 o'clock Thursday morning, authorities responded to a report of a car being involved in an accident on a railroad track in Waverly, Virginia.

Upon arriving at the scene, authorities discovered that a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria (which also happened to be a former police car sold at an auction) had collided with an Amtrak train at the Route 40/Route 460 crossing in Waverly. The man driving the vehicle, Untron Drew, survived after being hit by the train, which was traveling approximately 80 miles per hour. Drew was immediately taken to the hospital with non-fatal injuries.

After further investigation, authorities discovered that alcohol was involved in the accident; however, authorities have yet to release information concerning the extent of the role alcohol played in the wreck. According to Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sergeant Michelle Anaya, Drew "attempted to drive around a crossing bar, disregarding warning lights and functional crossing bar,” giving credence to the fact that alcohol was involved in the decision making process.

Fortunately, Drew was the only person to sustain injuries in the accident. The train, which was carrying 49 people total (44 passengers and 5 crew members), did not derail and continued its scheduled route to Boston, albeit 2 hours late.

This accident brings attention to an oft-forgotten aspect of US transportation. Despite the fact that Amtrak has been in business since 1971, it has yet to turn a profit. Over the past 42 years, Amtrak has accumulated a net worth of $11 billion. However, Amtrak has also lost money during all of those years. In 2011, Amtrak lost $1.3 billion, equalling a 21 cent loss per every passenger mile. Despite the fact that Amtrak ridership has actually increased in recent year (perhaps due to the ever-increasing environmental awareness), its business model does not allow it to turn a profit. As a result, the average age of an Amtrak car is 26 years old and high-speed rail is not likely in the near future.

If Amtrak is going to continue operating as the main train option within the United States, it is going to have to change its business model to allow for more technological growth and sustainable pricing. While a high-speed rail system in the US is still in the distant future, private investment and government subsidies could lead to more efficient train transportation, decreased transportation costs, and greener solutions to travel. Further research and development could also lead to a decrease in accidents, a number which currently stands at one per day.

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