Waiting on a Train
The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service
A Year Spent Riding Across America
by James McCommons
304 pages paperback 6” x 9”
Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing October 20, 2009
The book “Waiting on a Train” is the story of a passenger rail journey by the author across the United States via the Amtrak long-distance passenger rail service during an entire year, and the author's observations and also the various talks he has had with people involved with the railroads.
From reading this book it becomes rather evident that Britain made the same mistakes as regards to the railroad system the USA did, though some years later under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,
The only difference between the USA and Britain is that the UK destroyed a relatively well working and affordable passenger rail system and created a “private” one via franchises, none of which, bar one or two, run well, on time, and with value for money.
“Waiting on a Train” is a well written book in which the author, James McCommons, makes the valid call for the resurrecting the nearly dead long-distance passenger rail service in America and also for better goods trains.
Being a non-car driver and -owner I am a great lover and advocate of trains, passenger and good, and this book speaks to my innermost being.
The only way passenger rail services work and will work properly ever at a decent cost to the traveling public, that is to say, fares that the ordinary person can afford if they are in public ownership. Yes, we are talking here about the “N” word, the word called “nationalization”.
Only a proper nationalized public passenger rail service that can offer low fares – even if this be supported by taxes – will ever encourage people to leave their cars at home and use the train, for commuting and, especially, for long-distance travel, or to entice them to desert the plane for the train. For me there would never be a contest; I prefer the train to the plane any time.
The old, the nationalized British railroad service, British Rail, worked just on principle similar to that when it came to passenger transportation at least. That was until British Rail (BR) was destroyed by the government of Margaret Thatcher.
Are the railways the answer to our transportation needs?
The answer, short and sweet, to this, is “yes”, but to all intents and purposes, so it least it would seem, only a nationalized system of sorts will make this possible.
The entire railways system – in the UK and elsewhere – should be in public ownership and have no private shareholders of any kind. Private shareholders, in the main, when it comes to passenger rail systems, utilities, and whatever else, put profit before anything else, and that almost always.
Trains are green and outperform cars and planes alike.
I have greatly enjoyed this book and can all but agree with the “findings” of the author as far as the need for a nationalized railway system in the USA (and elsewhere) and the sooner this is understood by the powers-that-be and citizens alike the better for all of us and especially the environment.
Well run trains at affordable fares will be a way that people can be enticed out of the cars and even out of planes and the environmental footprint of an individual's rail journey as compared to the same journey by car would be that much smaller.
Now let's hear it for the train.