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Amtrak chief: Vermont tracks had no fences to prevent rock slides

Amtrak chief: Vermont tracks had no fences to prevent rock slides
© Brian Bell @BrianABell1980

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said there are no fences alongside the tracks in Vermont where a Washington, D.C.-bound train derailed on Monday, The Associated Press reports

Investigators have attributed the derailment of the train, number 55 on Amtrak's "Vermonter" route, to sliding rocks in the area of Roxbury, Vt

The train was in the midst of a trip from St. Albans, Vt., to Washington, D.C.'s Union Station when it derailed on Monday.

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Boardman said there are fences alongside tracks in other parts of the Northeast, like New York, but he said they are not in use in Vermont, according to the report. 

The Amtrak chief said it is unclear whether fences would have prevented the large rock slide that caused Monday's derailment.  

Investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration have listed a rock slide as the preliminary cause of the crash, which injured seven passengers and crew members who were on the train. 

The agency has promised to "conduct a full investigation to confirm the official cause of the accident." 

Vermont officials have said that all the passengers who were injured have been treated successfully. 

"Very pleased to announce that all 7 of those injured in yesterday's train derailment have been released from the hospital #vt," Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin tweeted on Tuesday. 

The crash is the latest in a string of high-profile accidents this year, including a derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight passengers, which have raised questions about U.S. rail safety amid a debate in Congress about an end-of-year mandate for automating most of the nation's trains.   

Lawmakers who support the automated Positive Train Control deadline have promised to look closely at the results of the investigation into the Vermont crash. 

"[Monday’s] derailment, which left a horrifying zigzag of steel sliding off the tracks, raises anew important, vital questions about rail safety and maintenance," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a statement.

"It is critical that we learn whether this accident was avoidable, so that we can ensure that similar tragedies do not happen in the future," Blumenthal continued. "I call on the Federal Railroad Administration and National Transportation Safety Board to move swiftly to investigate this derailment. My thoughts and prayers go out to those injured ... as do my hopes for their speedy recovery.”