Digest: Women charged with terrorist attack on railroad in Washington state incident

News Wire Digest for Dec. 1: DC Metro proposes drastic cuts, including end of weekend rail service; VIA Rail Canada ridership down 82% in third quarter
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Tuesday morning rail news:

Two women charged with terrorist attack after disrupting BNSF signaling in Washington
Two Bellingham, Wash., women have been charged with a terrorist attack and other violence against a railroad carrier after allegedly placing a shunt on BNSF Railway tracks near a Bellingham grade crossing, disrupting crossing gates. The Bellingham Herald reports Samantha Frances Brooks, 27, and Ellen Brennan Reiche, 23, were arrested Saturday and charged Monday in federal court in Seattle. A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle says the arrests come after 41 incidents this year of shunts being placed on BNSF tracks in Whatcom and Skagit counties. The shunts disrupts the track’s electrical current that creates circuits to activate signaling, “causing crossing guards to malfunction, interfering with automatic braking systems, and in one case, causing the near derailment of tanks of hazardous chemicals,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in the press release. The charge of terrorist attack on a railroad facility is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

DC Metro proposes drastic budget cuts including end of weekend rail service, elimination of 2,400 jobs
DC Metro would eliminate weekend rail service, close 19 stations, and eliminate 2,400 jobs as part of cuts in a budget proposal released Monday. The Washington Post reports the plan, for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021, would also eliminate half of the routes in the bus system. The proposal would cut $494.5 million from a projected $1.945 billion in operating expenses to address a projected budget deficit of almost $500 million. Some cuts could be rolled back if Congress provides funding through a stimulus plan, but Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said the system can’t put out a budget that’s “unrealistic” in hopes additional funding arrives.

VIA third-quarter ridership down 82% from 2019 levels
VIA Rail Canada ridership was down 82% and revenue dropped 86% during the third quarter of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, as the passenger carrier continued to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Service in the Quebec City-Windsor, Ontario, corridor increased to 46% of normal levels during the quarter, after falling to as low as 18% of regular levels earlier in the year. With services still reduced or suspended elsewhere, the corridor accounted for $14.6 million of VIA’s $15.5 million during the quarter, and all but 10,000 of the company’s 236,000 riders. “As the national passenger rail service, we have a responsibility to continue to provide our public service, despite the circumstances, while safeguarding the travel experience,” VIA CEO Cynthia Garneau said in a press release. “We are very much aware that transportation is more limited in some provinces and we remain focused on relaunching services in Eastern and Western Canada.” The full quarterly report is available here.

 

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