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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak must improve safety on Northeast Corridor, FRA says


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday ordered Amtrak to take immediate steps to improve safety on the Northeast Corridor. The order is in response to last week's deadly derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia.

The FRA's actions, which will be formalized soon in an emergency order, require Amtrak to:
• Ensure automatic train control (ATC) is in use to enforce speed restrictions for northbound trains as it currently is for southbound trains at and near the derailment site.
• Assess risk on all curves on the corridor. In areas where approach speed is "significantly higher" than curve speed, Amtrak must immediately implement technology that will prevent over-speed derailments. Amtrak will report to FRA its findings on its curve risk analysis.
• Increase speed limit signage throughout the corridor.

"These are just initial steps, but we believe they will immediately improve safety for passengers on the Northeast Corridor," said Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg in a prepared statement. "While full implementation of positive train control is the most important step that must be taken to improve safety, it is not the only action that we will require of Amtrak and other railroads."

Amtrak Train 188 derailed May 12 shortly after leaving the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on a route to New York  City. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not yet determined the cause, but has indicated that speed was a contributing factor, as the train was traveling twice the posted speed limit when it derailed on a sharp curve.

"As we learn more from the ongoing investigation into this derailment, we will take additional steps and enforcement actions as necessary," Feinberg said.

NTSB member Robert Sumwalt has said the accident would not have happened if positive train control (PTC) had been operating at the derailment location. Amtrak is implementing a form of PTC known as the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES), but had not yet implemented the system on track where the accident occurred.

Meanwhile, the NTSB said in a Twitter post yesterday that the derailment's probable cause will be determined at the end of the agency's investigation, which is expected to take up to 12 months.