Senators to probe deadly Amtrak crash

Senators to probe deadly Amtrak crash
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Senators are planning to hold a hearing about a deadly Amtrak accident in Philadelphia that killed eight people last month. 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation will meet on June 10 to discuss the crash and efforts to install automated train control technologies that investigators say would have prevented the deadly accident. 

Officials with the committee said Thursday that the hearing will offer lawmakers “an opportunity to hear testimony from expert witnesses about ongoing efforts to prevent passenger rail accidents, particularly through the use of train control technology.”

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“Witnesses have been requested to discuss the capabilities and limitations of train control technologies (including positive train control systems); the current status of the deployment and functionality of positive train control systems; and current challenges with on-going efforts to install, test, and certify positive train control systems by the December 31, 2015, statutory deadline,” the panel said. 

The Amtrak crash touched off a debate in Congress about whether the automated train control deadline should be extended, after investigators said the train reached speeds of more than 100 mph before it derailed near Philadelphia. 

Railroads currently have until December to install the system, which is called positive train control (PTC), under a law passed in the aftermath of a 2008 commuter rail crash in California.  

But just six weeks before Tuesday’s wreck, the GOP-led Senate Commerce Committee approved a measure pushing the deadline to the end of 2020 at the behest of rail companies, which argued the 2015 mandate was too burdensome. 

Lawmakers in the House squabbled about the crash for hours this week, debating the merits of the automated train deadline and a GOP budget cut for the agency that was approved a day after the crash. 

The Senate panel is scheduled to hear testimony from representatives of Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Communications Commission during its hearing.