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Rail News: Passenger Rail

NTSB issues update regarding Amtrak's Maryland derailment


Although National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation into the cause of Amtrak’s July 29 derailment in Kensington, Md., an update issued Aug. 22 stated that a track supervisor lifted a slow order prematurely, raising the allowable speed on the track section from 25 mph to 60 mph.

On July 22, CSX Transportation maintenance-of-way crews were spot surfacing and tamping the track in the area of the derailment. About halfway through the work, the tamping machine broke and crews temporarily finished the work using a pneumatic hand tamper.

A 25 mph slow order was issued and was to have been in place until the work was completed using the repaired mechanized tamper. However, weather conditions and other work prevented the work from being completed. Several days after the start of track maintenance, a track supervisor lifted the slow order believing the job had been completed, according to NSTB’s investigation.

Amtrak’s Capital Limited was going 60 mph when the train’s engineer saw a defect in the track ahead of him and applied the brakes, says NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi. Eleven of the train’s 13 cars derailed, resulting in 101 injuries that required hospitalization.

Officials earlier considered the possibility that the region’s 90-degree weather might have caused the track to buckle. And, despite NTSB’s mention of incomplete track work, NTSB has not ruled out buckling.

"We’re looking at every issue with the track," says Peduzzi.

NTSB continues to investigate the derailment and examine CSXT’s track maintenance procedures. The board likely will issue its final report in a year to a year-and-a-half, says Peduzzi.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/23/2002