Amtrak Told to Slow It Down Along Corridors


     WASHINGTON (CN) – In the wake of the May 12 Amtrak train derailment that killed eight, Amtrak must implement new safety requirements to slow train speeds, according to a Federal Railroad Administration emergency order.
     “Last Saturday, FRA instructed Amtrak to immediately take several actions to improve safety along the [northeast corridor]. As stated in that weekend announcement, today’s emergency order formalizes those instructions,” the agency said in a May 21 press release. The FRA also announced its intention to take additional steps to address potential speed issues on all other passenger corridors.
     Amtrak train No. 188 derailed in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, injuring more than 200 passengers and killing eight. Engineer Brandon Bostian suffered a head injury in the crash and says he can’t remember what happened, according to several reports.
     A federal probe of the crash is ongoing.
     “Although we do not yet know what caused the derailment of Amtrak Train No. 188, the information we do have underscores the need to continue to do all we can to further promote safety along the northeast corridor,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a May 21 statement. “Today’s action will help prevent similar incidents from occurring on the NEC until Amtrak completes its installation of Positive Train Control later this year.”
     In its emergency order, the FRA said Amtrak has already implemented the new requirement to “immediately” change a code in its Automatic Train Control system near Frankford Junction curve in Philadelphia, Pa., to enforce the passenger-train speed limit of 50 mph, or lower, for northbound trains approaching the curve.
     The rail company must also develop a plan to modify signal systems warning engineers of train speeds and enforcement of speed limits, and to provide a target date for the modifications. The action plan must be submitted within 20 days of Thursday’s order.
     “In addition, Amtrak must begin to install additional wayside signage alerting engineers and conductors of the maximum authorized passenger train speed throughout its northeast corridor system no later than 30 days after the date of the order,” the FRA said.
     Amtrak announced Tuesday that it is equipping its engine train cabs with “inward-facing” cameras that would record engineer actions and aid investigations into events such as the train No. 188 derailment.
     “Inward-facing video cameras will help improve safety and serve as a valuable investigative tool,” Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman said in a May 26 statement. “We have tested these cameras and will begin installation as an additional measure to enhance safety.”
     “Our investigations take about year, so it’s still on an ongoing investigation,” the National Transportation and Safety Board’s public relations office told Courthouse News.
     An investigation update released by the NTSB on May 20 announced there were “no signal systems anomalies or malfunctions” and that an interview with the engineer of a stopped SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) train reveals he “did not notice anything unusual” as 188 passed.

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