Another Amtrak Crash. 2 Dead. Amtrak on Wrong Track

http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article198332739.html

http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article198346879.html

Unless this is a case of vandalism, it looks like another case of Amtrak not being serious about safety.

are there any railroad workers on the board? I’d like to know if any part of the light systems are automated. We have red/green lights in my area to tell trains if the tracks are clear or not. Are these triggered by trains or remote operators?

If every car crash was publicized the way train crashes are, cars would have been banned long ago.

Either that, or the railroad system in the US is big, complex, and sometimes things go wrong.

There’s no transportation system more serious about safety than aviation, but airplanes still crash from time to time. Same for rail - you can be serious about safety and still have accidents occur.

Remember folks - accidents occur for three reasons:

  1. People make mistakes
  2. Machinery breaks
  3. Only God controls the weather

Every accident is one or a combination of the above. You can reduce all three reasons, but not eliminate them.

Amtrak’s safety record has got to be an order of magnitude worse than in any other train system in a first world country. With them, it’s not a matter of sometimes things go wrong. There’s something clearly broken about Amtrak and their safety practices.

Amtrak doesn’t need to worry about safety and will continue on the same track because they are funded by the bottomless well of taxpayers’ money.
If Amtrak were a private entity, safety would have a much higher priority in its system. But as long as the government will pay the bills and settle the lawsuits, they can just keep going.

New Jersey Transit would like a word with you.

This line was under a signal suspension, meaning the signals were in-op at the time. Trains would be running using what is generally called a track warrant, which is issued over radio by the train dispatcher. Normally what happens is you are given an authority to operate from point a to point b. When you clear point b you give the track back to the dispatcher by calling clear of point b and canceling your warrant. These track warrants are copied by the operating crew on a paper form.

Going by the NTSB briefing, the parked train shoved from the main into the siding at a hand operated switch. That just means the conductor had to get on the ground and physically line the switch. They then called clear of the main and gave it back to the dispatcher, but did not re-line that hand switch for the main. Normally the signal system would protect any train from this improperly lined switch, but the system was suspended.

The dispatcher has no way to see that the switch is not lined during the suspension either, but knows the previous train called clear and gave the track back to him.

Then later, the Amtrak train is given a track warrant for the main track, with neither the dispatcher or the Amtrak crew knowing the hand switch is lined for the siding. They come though at around 53 MPH, and see the switch not line for the main like it should have been, but by then it’s to late to do anything.

Also, all main line switches have padlocks on them. They lock the lever you use to line the switch in a keeper, so random people just can’t go line the switch. I’m seeing people getting worked up in other places about the padlock thing, but it’s totally normal.

Not a good comparison. trains are substantially larger/heavier than cars and do a lot more damage.

Well it appears it’s the fault of CSX for not resetting the switch. CSX is a private entity.

Not entirely. With cars there is this concept of defensive driving.

Correspondingly if you or I were management in charge of this train’s operation knowing there were no signals and there were over 100 lives at stake we would take precautions–for example slowing down or rechecking the switches…

Ha. Ha. Ha-ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .

More seriously - Congress limits Amtrak funding based on politics, not safety. Trump was all set to cut Amtrak funding further before these accidents. If you starve a public utility it’s not going to work well.

If Amtrak was a public entity it wouldn’t have to deal with the Republicans trying to deal it a death by a thousand (funding) cuts.

I think the padlock does argue against the possibility of vandalism, which the OP suggested as a possibility. It seems the CSX crew operated the switch and locked it in place, moved the train into the siding, then told the CSX dispatch that the line was released before actually moving back the switch. The dispatch then cleared the Amtrak train to go through.

The Amtrak train just obeys orders from the owner/operator of the rail line. The CSX signal system and/or their dispatch is responsible for the train’s operation.

And this wasn’t a case of a signal system failing. The signal system was taken down for maintenance, with an alternate system (radio communication w/ dispatcher) in place to operate the trains.

Exactly. I don’t know where people get ideas that Amtrak is out there moving switches or controlling the signals. They just run on the private railroad’s track. The line is responsible for all that.

Amtrak (and commuter) trains would slow to a turtle-like pace if they presumed that other professional train crews didn’t do their jobs and left open the switches to the many, many, many sidings on a typical rail line. The switch control is right there at the switch, and the through train would have to slow significantly to do the visual check you are armchair-quarterbacking. Most people consider passenger trains moving above 50mph to be a feature, not a bug.

Defensive driving has limits. When you’re driving, do you slow to 20mph approaching a green light because someone in the cross-street might run their red light? :dubious: I daresay freight crews leaving a siding switch open – especially when they’re entering the siding and would get hit by the next through train :rolleyes: – is rarer than motorists running red signals.

I’m not sure if this is that relevant. If you want to measure fatalities per mile traveled, it’s safe to say that driving a car is more dangerous by a great order of magnitude than rail. We saw the same mistake made after 9-11. People stopped taking flights as it was ‘too dangerous’, instead making long journeys by car with the resulting higher death rates from people falling asleep at the wheel.

And this has to be taken into consideration when new safety measures are being proposed. If they increase costs or decrease convenience, will they push so many more people into cars that it actually increases the number of deaths and injuries? I believe that’s why you’re still allowed to carry a baby on a plane even though they’re much safer in seats; mandating seats for babies will just put more families in cars, which is even worse than having a loose baby on a plane.

Since he took credit for the airline safety record, I think it only fair that he take the blame for this…