Safety for Amtrak's Northeast Regional line enhanced
Over the weekend, Amtrak announced the installation of a railway safety system which transportation experts said could have prevented May’s deadly derailment in Philadelphia.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Sunday that Amtrak’s Northeast Regional, which makes hourly trips from Boston to Washington, D.C., now has a “Positive Train Control” safety system (PTC) installed between New York City and Philadelphia. This is the last portion of the line to get this system fully installed.
According to the Journal, the PTC system “can take control of a train before it speeds through a curve where trains should slow down, or if the engineer driving it becomes disabled or distracted.”
The installation of the PTC system comes seven months after a deadly derailment of an Amtrak train bound for New York. Eight people were killed and over 200 were injured in the crash near Port Richmond in northeast Philadelphia.
National Transportation Safety Board Member Robert Sumwalt is noted to have said at a press conference in May that had such a system been active during the incident, the derailment which occurred on May 12 could have been prevented. The train was reported to have been travelling more than 100 miles an hour around a curve where the speed limit was half of that speed.
At a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing in June, Sarah Feinberg, head of the Federal Railroad Administration, told politicians that if PTC systems are not “fully implemented” by the start of 2016, the country “can and should” expect more rail accidents in the future.
“We owe it to the public to ensure that PTC-preventable accidents, such as the Amtrak Train 188 derailment north of Philadelphia on May 12, 2015, do not occur by ensuring that certified, fully-operational PTC systems are in place on the routes that require them as quickly as possible,” she said.
A law passed in 2008 required that major U.S. railroad networks install PTC systems throughout their lines by the end of 2015. Congress and the President agreed to push back the deadline to 2018, according to a SEPTA update on the implementation of the their own PTC system. The update said SEPTA plans to have the system “in operation by the end of calendar 2015 or early in 2016.”
Philly.com reported an expansive federal transportation bill passed at the beginning of the month committed $199 million for PTC installation on passenger rails nationwide, but that will cover only a fraction of the cost, which is expected to exceed $12 billion. This is after the House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment presented in May by the committee’s Democrats, led by Philadelphia Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), to give Amtrak $2.45 billion which President Obama requested in his budget plans this year.