Trains put on fast track for speed control following Amtrak disaster

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In the wake of last week’s train disaster, the Federal Railroad Administration has told Amtrak that they must make immediate safety changes especially implementing long-awaited “positive train control,” aka speed control technology.

CBS News Transportation Consultant Mark Rosenker, former chairman of the NTSB, said it has taken longer than expected to put these changes into effect for a number of reasons. “It’s such a very expensive proposition and there are so many miles, 62-thousand miles, or track in the United States. That particular area was getting prepared to actually be put on-line, but it needed to have some additional testing done before they could actually activate it.” The accident occurred just months before improvements could be implemented.

On Tuesday, May 12, an Amtrak Northeast Regional Train, No. 188, was traveling from Washington to New York when it derailed in Philadelphia. The train was traveling at 106 miles per hour around a curve, which is over twice the speed limit of 50 miles per hour, when the engineer stomped on the breaks only slowing it down slightly, according to The New York Times.

The accident occurred as the train passed through a rail yard called Frankford Junction, where multiple freight and passenger routes converge, and the Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor makes one of its sharpest turns. This crash has caused the death of seven people, and injured over 200.

Robert Sumwalt, the National Transportation Safety Board official who is leading this case said, “As we know, it takes a long time to decelerate a train. You’re supposed to enter the curve at 50 miles per hour. He was already in the curve.” Mr. Sumwalt said that positive train control, which dictates speed and slows trains down around curves, could have prevented the crash.

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