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Speed a Major Factor in Tuesday's Fatal Amtrak Derailment

The death toll has risen to seven in the May 12 derailment in Philadelphia. NTSB confirmed the train was traveling over 106 mph on a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph. Positive Train Control, which would have stopped the train, was not present.
May 14, 2015, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The question of the train’s speed was unequivocally answered by a lab analysis of its data recorder," write Ashley Halsey IIIJulie Zauzmer and Dana Hedgpeth of The Washington Post about the finding of the the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). "Trains are equipped with cameras and sensitive data recorders — akin to the so-called black boxes on aircraft — that measure factors such as speed."

Bloomberg News reports that the death toll rose to seven and injuries exceeded 200, "with about 12 listed in serious or critical condition Wednesday."

Addressing an unanswered question in our May 13 post, NTSB board member Robert "Sumwalt said Amtrak had not installed a feature known as Positive Train Control on the section of track where the accident took place," according to The Washington Post.  PTC is designed to prevent derailments caused by excessive speed as well as other factors. "The system is in place in much of the Northeast Corridor," note the reporters, and Congress has required that it "be installed throughout the U.S. rail system by the end of this year."

As for this crash being one of Amtrak's worst as reported here Wednesday, Bloomberg News reporters Sophia Pearson, Angela Greiling Keane, and Romy Varghesen write that "(i)n 1993, 47 people died and 103 were injured as rail cars careened off a bridge and into water near Mobile, Alabama."

The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock reports on the service changes in the Northeast Corridor resulting from the crash:

*Amtrak will offer modified service between Washington and Philadelphia.
*No Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia.
*Service will also be modified between New York and Boston and between Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Alternatives, particularly speedy ones, will not come cheap. "(F)lying on a shuttle on either Delta or US Airways was averaging about $1,300 roundtrip," writes Dr. Gridlock.

Train riders are advised "to check (Amtrak's) blog for updates on changes to schedules and warned that conditions could change."

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 in The Washington Post - Wonkblog
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