At least six people have died and more than 140 people are injured in the wake of the deadliest Amtrak derailment in recent history. Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 rolled off the tracks while rounding a bend near Philadelphia, according to NBC Philadelphia, while carrying 238 passengers and five crew members. As officials sort through the wreckage and try to determine the cause of the tragedy, the Northeast Corridor — Amtrak’s busiest and most profitable route between Boston and Washington — will be shut down for an indeterminate amount of time.
Already the densest rail route in the U.S., aging Northeast Corridor trains are grappling with more riders than ever. The route has steadily broken ridership records every year for more than a decade — last year, 11.6 million people rode a Northeast Corridor train. But Amtrak has been starved of the funds required to keep up with this increased demand. The Northeast Corridor is shouldering a backlog of repairs expected to require $4.3 billion in fiscal year 2019, while federal funding is expected to dwindle to $872 million.
House Republicans will debate another massive cut to Amtrak on Wednesday. But even if they keep Amtrak funding levels where they are, Congress is guaranteeing more dysfunction and more breakdowns in the system as maintenance costs rise. Those breakdowns can range from creating minor inconveniences, like being 20 minutes late to work, to potential catastrophes, like Tuesday’s derailment.