Last updated: 06:04 PM ET, Sat May 16 2015

Federal Railroad Administration Orders Amtrak to Improve Safety

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | May 16, 2015

Federal Railroad Administration Orders Amtrak to Improve Safety

Last Tuesday’s deadly derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, which killed eight and injured around 200 has spurred the Federal Railroad Administration to insist the national railway company make changes to improve safety in the busy Northeast Corridor (NEC). Immediately. The news release states that the list of instructions “will be formalized in the coming days via an Emergency Order.”

Item one is the implementation of Automatic Train Control (ATC) for northbound trains. ATC, in use at or near the derailment site for southbound trains only, detects if the train has exceeded the speed limit, and alerts the engineer. If the engineer doesn’t slow the train, the ATC will automatically apply the brakes.

Item two is to assess risk and potential of safety improvements for all curves on the NEC. According to the statement, “In areas where approach speed is significantly higher than curve speed, the appropriate technology intended to prevent over-speed derailments must be implemented immediately.” Amtrak must report its findings back to the FRA.

Item three is to increase “the amount and frequency of signage” informing engineers and conductors of the speed limit.  

“While we do not yet know everything that happened we do know — without question — that protecting rail passengers is our top priority, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “The actions we have instructed Amtrak to take are aimed at improving safety on this corridor immediately, but we won’t hesitate to require the railroad to do more to improve safety as the accident’s causes become clearer.”

The latest news, via the Associated Press has crash investigators looking into why the train was moving at 106 mph in a 50 mph zone. An object may have struck the windshield of the train shortly before the derailment, a possibility that has brought the FBI into the investigation. Meanwhile, the injured engineer cannot recall events a few minutes prior to the moment of the crash.

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