Frozen trains: The worst kind of business trip

AS MY colleague noted recently, it was cold in America’s midwest last week. It was so cold, in fact, that 500 passengers on trains operated by Amtrak, America’s government-subsidised passenger railroad, were left stranded overnight after ice and snow drifts blocked the tracks. Gulliver has long argued that Amtrak’s long-distance services, which are taxpayer money pits that cater mainly to obsessive railfans and helpless aviophobics, should be scrapped. And it was three of these trains that were stopped in the snowstorm last week: “the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles, the Illinois Zephyr from Quincy and the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay area,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Passengers were, unsurprisingly, cold and hungry.Some of the passengers on those trains may have had no choice but to travel that day. Others were no doubt commuters or business travellers, picking up a long-distance train to travel a short distance. But that’s a reminder that when flights are being cancelled and roads being closed, the train is not necessarily a superior option. After all, getting stuck in the snow on a long-distance train can lead to some horrible situations. A classic Mark Twain story, about a large group of Congressmen trapped on a snowbound train, comes to mind:”The sixth day passed–the seventh dawned upon as gaunt and haggard and hopeless a company of …

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