Positive Train Control Questions Follow Washington State Amtrak Crash

America’s railroads are adopting new technology intended to prevent crashes. However, it was not used in Washington State where an Amtrak train crashed in December, killing three and injuring more than 100. Positive Train Control questions were asked in the wake of the latest serious rail crash.

As well as passengers who were killed and injured, all the crew members were hospitalized, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) set up interviews with them to get more details on the derailment of Amtrak Cascades 501 near DuPont, Washington.

The train was on its inaugural journey from Seattle to Portland, Oregon.

Positive Train Control is meant to prevent crashes of this nature but it was not activated on the train. Positive train control, or PTC, has the ability to automatically slow down and stop a train if it’s going too fast or could get into an accident. The Federal Railroad Administration hailed it as the “single-most important rail safety development in more than a century.”

PTC has been dogged by delays and cost overruns but America’s railroads are increasingly fitting it.

However, the Amtrak train in Washington State was traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone, National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

The NTSB report estimates total damage from the crash at $40.4 million.

Positive Train Control Questions Are Raised in Lawsuits

Lawsuits have already been filed after December’s crash. Two people who were on the train and another who was hurt in a vehicle on the highway below the derailed train all filed suits.

The NTSB said signs alerting crews to the speed reductions were placed two miles before the curve and at the start of the curve. The NTSB’s report could not comprehend why Amtrak 501 entered a curve at nearly three times the posted speed limit.

The full federal investigation into the latest Amtrak crash will take months. The preliminary NTSB report released confirmed the train was traveling nearly 50 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.

One of the lawsuits states Amtrak equipped the train with PTC. It questions why the train was equipped with the technology but Positive Train Control was not operable.

The train’s conductor has sued in Pierce County Superior Court. He alleges Amtrak failed to provide a safe work environment. A new deadline set by the Federal Railroad Administration requires the implementation of PTC by December 31, 2018.

The crash has raised questions about the adequacy of training for engineers and conductors on the route in Washington.

A report on CNN noted there are numerous unanswered questions after the Amtrak crash.

Positive Train Control Questions were never far from the thoughts of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. He said:

“There are a thousand unanswered questions about this right now. One of the questions is, could that speed control have made a difference? We don’t know that for sure at the moment either.”

If you have been injured on the railroads or lost a loved one, call our railroad accident attorneys at (757) 455-0077.

John Cooper