NTSB calls on FRA and Amtrak to take advantage of PTC security features (update)

A photo illustration shows the site where a track worker was struck by an Amtrak train in 2018. (NTSB: photo by Michael Hoepf; graphic overlay by Christy Spangler.) WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board

A photo illustration shows the site where a track worker was struck by an Amtrak train in 2018. (NTSB: photo by Michael Hoepf; graphic overlay by Christy Spangler.)

WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board is renewing a call to Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to end the practice of using guards to advise track workers of approaching trains in areas where positive control of trains offers additional safety features.

The recommendation is coming a report published on Thursday on the NTSB’s investigation into an April 24, 2018 crash, in which an Amtrak guard was killed in Bowie, Md., when he was struck from behind by a northbound Amtrak train while driving focused on the movement of a southbound MARC commuter train.

“More action needs to be taken to protect train crews, track maintenance workers and mechanical workers from death or injury,” said Thomas Chapman, NTSB board member. in a press release. “We have discovered, through our investigations, that many of these accidents are, tragically, preventable. “

The investigation concluded that the probable cause of the accident was “Amtrak’s insufficient site-specific safety work plan for the Bowie Project which (1) did not consider multiple main tracks in a noisy environment and ( 2) did not provide the gang guardian rail with a safe place to stand ”, leading him to stand on an active track. The decision to use guards for worker protection rather than PTC protection, which can automatically slow down trains in work areas.

As a result, the NTSB asked the FRA to ban the use of watchmen (or “train approach alert”) in areas with PTC; on Amtrak to modify its site-specific work plans to account for all hazards, including those in multi-lane work areas; and for Amtrak and all Class I railways to end the use of guards during maintenance and inspection activities. He also reiterated a previous recommendation to assess the risks for track projects and to use this assessment to issue “severe speed restrictions” around projects presenting risks to the safety of workers, equipment and the public. public. This recommendation was originally made in a 2017 report on a collision between an Amtrak train and maintenance equipment on April 3, 2016, which killed two workers and injured 40 passengers. [see “NTSB report: ‘Culture of fear’ present at Amtrak …,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 14, 2017].

Amtrak, in a statement Thursday afternoon, said it was working to address concerns from the NTSB. “We appreciate the detailed report from the NTSB and have already taken several steps to ensure this type of incident does not happen again. The safety of our employees and customers is Amtrak’s top priority. We are reviewing the report and recommendations and will seek to implement reasonable measures to meet the intent of the recommendations and ensure the continued safety of our employees. “

– Updated 2:45 p.m. CDT with Amtrak statement


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