Federal Railroad Administration Orders Safety Improvements for Amtrak

By | May 18, 2015

Federal regulators ordered Amtrak, the U.S. passenger rail service, to immediately improve safety on its Northeast Corridor route from Washington to Boston.

Amtrak must expand the use of technology to control train speeds, the Federal Railroad Administration said in a statement Saturday. Regulators also ordered Amtrak to analyze curves on its tracks along the northeast route and add additional speed limit signs for engineers and conductors.

Northeast Regional Train 188, traveling at greater than twice the posted speed limit, derailed entering a bend in Philadelphia on May 12. The accident closed part of the busiest passenger-rail corridor in the U.S.

“While we do not yet know everything that happened, we do know -– without question -– that protecting rail passengers is our top priority,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “The actions we have instructed Amtrak to take are aimed at improving safety on this corridor immediately.”

The order comes as the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why the New York-bound train accelerated to 106 miles per hour (170 kilometers per hour) before derailing on a curved section of track with a 50 mile-per-hour speed limit.

Under the order, Amtrak will have to use a technology that automatically brakes a train if an engineer doesn’t slow down when exceeding the speed limit. The railroad already uses the system on southbound trains near the crash site. Regulators ordered its use on northbound trains as well.

Weekend Improvement

Amtrak, in a blog post on its website after the order was released, said it will install systems over the weekend to ensure that northbound trains slow to 45 miles per hour as they approach the curve where the accident occurred.

Amtrak is working on installing more advanced automatic- braking technology known as Positive Train Control by the end of the year.

Amtrak will also have to assess bends in the Northeast Corridor where approach speed is significantly higher than the curve speed. The railroad must install technology to prevent speed-related derailments and report back to regulators.

Eight passengers were killed and more than 200 other people were injured in the Philadelphia crash. The NTSB said Friday it has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation for help in determining whether the train may have been hit by a projectile just prior to the crash.


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