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Rail News: Amtrak
NTSB calls on FRA to stop delaying passenger-rail safety rule
Prompted by a fatal Amtrak train derailment in 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to implement a passenger-rail operations safety program "without further delay."
The NTSB statement followed the release yesterday of its final report on the agency's investigation into the Amtrak derailment that occurred in DuPont, Washington.
The report details the NTSB's investigation of the accident, which concluded that failure to provide effective mitigation of a hazardous curve and inadequate training of the locomotive engineer led to the derailment.
Three of 77 passengers were killed and 65 others were injured on Dec. 18, 2017, when Amtrak Cascades train 501 — on its inaugural run on the Point Defiance Bypass between Seattle and Portland, Oregon — derailed on an overpass as the train entered a 30-mph curve at about 78 mph.
After a May 21 board meeting during which the probable cause was determined, the NTSB issued 26 new safety recommendations and reiterated three existing safety recommendations.
Among the reiterated safety recommendations to the FRA is R-17-17, which seeks the enactment of a federal regulation known as the "System Safety Program" without further delay, NTSB officials said in a press release.
The FRA published the final rule for the program Aug. 12, 2016. However, the rule has been stayed six times, with implementation deferred to Sept. 4, 2019, NTSB officials said.
"Yet despite evidence in the report further demonstrating the need for the timely implementation of this safety recommendation, the FRA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking June 12, 2019, seeking to further delay regulations requiring commuter and intercity passenger railroads to develop and implement a system safety program to improve the safety of their operations," they said.
The FRA's notice of proposed rulemaking once again delays the implementation of regulations that would make passenger-rail safer, said NTSB Member Jennifer Homendy.
"The absence of a sense of urgency to implement this safety recommendation and the willingness to continue to jeopardize the safety of train crews and their passengers is unacceptable," she said. "The railroads should not wait one more day on the FRA to implement a final rule. It is the responsibility of each railroad to take swift action to ensure system safety."
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.