Catastrophic Accident Involving Amtrak Train

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Courtesy Tribune News Service.

The scene of the train derailment on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, after a northbound Amtrak train crashed in the Port Richmond area of Philadelphia Tuesday night. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed north of Philadelphia, leading to a catastrophic accident on May 12th as it made its way from Washington to New York City. The derailment killed eight passengers and sent over 200 to the hospital. Amtrak President and Chief Executive Joe Boardman said Sunday in a statement, Amtrak officials “have been working around the clock” to make repairs that would allow full service to resume through Philadelphia.”

Investigators examined reports that the train was one of three hit by an unknown object shortly before the fatal crash. There have been unknown objects which had impacted the windshield of numerous trains in the past, raising many questions on what exactly these mysterious objects were, and whether or not this was criminal activity sabotaging the trains?

The train was on time for its trip, carrying 238 passengers and five crew member when it derailed at about 9:30 pm. Initial data show the train traveling at more than twice the 50-mph speed limit as it barreled into the cure at roughly 106-mph. Survivors recall a somewhat mundane ride, which quickly developed into chaos as passenger cars began to be ripped off their track, sending almost everything flying.

Six passengers remain in critical condition with the majority of the injured released from hospitals. President Barack Obama offered his prayers for the victims, “I want to express my gratitude for the first responders, who raced to save lives, and for the many passengers who, despite their own injuries, made heroic efforts to get fellow passengers to safety.”

According to a press release, Amtrak is taking “immediate steps” to improve the safety of the busy Northeast Corridor.  To prevent further incidents, Amtrak installed speed controls on the section of track where their passenger train derailed.

The Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington had 11.6 million passengers in the 2014 fiscal year, amounting to almost a third of the national total.

Following an order by the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak is installing Automatic Train Control. These systems are responsible for notifying an engineer when the train is traveling at an excessive speed. If the engineer fails to respond, the system will automatically apply brakes.

A newer version of the ATC technology is the Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC communicates with the computers in the locomotive via transponders within the track. According to Amtrak, as a train travels over the transponders, it changes the train’s on-board radio to the proper channel allowing the train to receive more up to date information such as speed restrictions and routes.

In the near future, Amtrak will install more advanced technology referred to as Positive Train Control (PTC), on all of its tracks. The system is active on only 50 of the 226 miles of track between New York and Washington.