clearn.png
Monday August 19th, 2019 6:20AM
5:38AM ( 42 minutes ago ) Weather Alert

Amtrak: We'll stop service on tracks lacking speed controls

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Amtrak is considering suspending service on tracks that don't have sophisticated speed controls by a Dec. 31 deadline, the railroad's top executive said Thursday, threatening to disrupt operations across the U.S. in a push to strengthen safety after a series of deadly wrecks.

President and CEO Richard Anderson told a House subcommittee that Amtrak is worried passengers are being put at risk by delays in installing Positive Train Control systems on tracks it uses but doesn't own. Those tracks make up a majority of Amtrak's network.

Railroads face a year-end deadline mandated by Congress for installing the GPS-based system, known as PTC, but some are asking regulators for an extension until 2020. That's on top of a three-year delay granted in 2015. They've cited challenges including equipment problems and delays in testing to ensure it's compatible with other railroads' systems.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., has proposed to ban further extensions. DeFazio's bill would offer more than $2.5 billion in grants to speed railroads' progress. Industry groups estimate railroads will spend about $10 billion in total to install and implement the systems.

Amtrak already has PTC in place on about 700 miles of tracks it owns on the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, D.C., and in Michigan. Elsewhere, the government-owned railroad operates on track owned by freight carriers and other entities.

Anderson said Amtrak is evaluating whether it will continue running trains on third-party tracks where the PTC deadline is extended. He said the railroad won't operate on tracks whose owners haven't made enough progress to warrant a delay and is unlikely to operate on stretches that regulators have excluded from PTC requirements.

Amtrak's stance could also affect commuters. Anderson said the railroad would be unlikely to let regional carriers such as MARC and NJ Transit run trains lacking PTC on Amtrak-owned tracks after the deadline.

PTC is designed to slow or stop trains that are going too fast, take control when an engineer is distracted or incapacitated and prevent collisions with other trains.

"We believe that PTC should ultimately be in place for all Amtrak routes and, as a matter of U.S. policy, PTC should be required for all passenger rail trips in America," Anderson told the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Amtrak's warning came after two of its trains were involved in fatal crashes on third-party tracks in the past two months — the latest of about 150 crashes killing more than 300 people over the last five decades that investigators said were preventable by PTC.

On Dec. 18, a train entered a curve at nearly 50 mph (80 kph) over the speed limit and derailed on tracks south of Seattle owned by a regional authority, killing three people. On Feb. 4, a train was switched to the wrong track and slammed into a CSX train on tracks owned by the freight carrier in Cayce, South Carolina, killing two people.

"Without PTC, the system is too vulnerable to single points of failure many of which are dependent upon the memory of a single human being interacting with a big, complicated system," Anderson said. "When an engineer loses situational awareness or forgets a rule, we have no systems to assist them and help them prevent that error."

Signals on the South Carolina tracks were down for PTC installation, leaving dispatchers to manage train movements on their own. The NTSB on Thursday called for an emergency order requiring trains to slow down in such areas and report back if switches are misaligned.

Duy Nguyen, a Columbia University social work professor who survived the deadly May 2015 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, said he was frustrated by the lack of progress on PTC.

Eight people were killed and about 200 people were hurt when the Washington-to-New York train rounded a curve at more than twice the 50 mph speed limit and hurtled off the tracks.

"It's infuriating that so many of the rail lines have been dragging their feet," said Nguyen, 42, of Teaneck, N.J. "There are people's lives at risk every day."

__

Follow Mike Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Business
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Amtrak: We'll stop service on tracks lacking speed controls
Amtrak's president and CEO says the railroad will consider suspending service on tracks that don't have speed controls in place by a Dec. 31 deadline
2:42PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Senate to vote on immigration compromise, Trump plan
The White House threatens that President Donald Trump would veto a bipartisan Senate immigration compromise
2:19PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Warning signs may have been missed in school shooting case
Months before authorities say Nikolas Cruz walked into his former high school in Florida and slaughtered 17 people, the troubled teen began showing signs he was bent on violence
2:15PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
2 firms paid $50 million by Trump inaugural committee
Newly-filed federal tax documents show President Donald Trump's inauguration committee paid two private companies more than $50 million while donating $5 million to charitable causes after the January 2017 event in Washington
1:57PM ( 49 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump cancels Orlando trip after shooting
President Donald Trump is cancelling a planned trip to Orlando, Florida, on Friday after Thursday's deadly school shooting in Parkland
1:54PM ( 51 minutes ago )
The Latest: Collins, Graham appeal to Trump on immigration
A bipartisan group of senators pitching an immigration bill is pushing back against criticism from the Trump administration
1:40PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Russian mother grieves for son killed by US strike in Syria
For Russian mother Farkhanur Gavrilova, the blow came a week ago when an acquaintance called her to say her son was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Syria that pitted Russian and U.S. combatants against each other for the first time in the Syrian war
1:55PM ( 50 minutes ago )
Flu shot only 36 percent effective, making bad year worse
The flu vaccine is doing a poor job protecting older Americans and others against influenza
1:44PM ( 1 hour ago )
Grammys defends itself about women representation
After a few missteps, The Recording Academy is reassuring its members that it's not lagging behind the music industry when it comes to female representation
1:11PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Senate to vote on immigration compromise, Trump plan
The White House threatens that President Donald Trump would veto a bipartisan Senate immigration compromise
2:19PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Warning signs may have been missed in school shooting case
Months before authorities say Nikolas Cruz walked into his former high school in Florida and slaughtered 17 people, the troubled teen began showing signs he was bent on violence
2:15PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Indiscriminate school shooting killed students and staffers
Everyone and anyone was a target for the gunman who opened fire with an AR-15 at a large high school in south Florida
2:12PM ( 34 minutes ago )
Players win 3 of 5 arbitration cases, lead teams 11-8
Players win 3 of 5 arbitration cases; players up 11-8 in rulings with 3 hearings to go
2:04PM ( 42 minutes ago )
South African limbo ends with new president, Cyril Ramaphosa
Cyril Ramaphosa becomes South Africa's president with a message of clean government and inclusiveness, stirring hopes that he can reverse national decline
1:58PM ( 47 minutes ago )