Dems press Amtrak for train safety update

Dems press Amtrak for train safety update
© Greg Nash

House Democrats on Wednesday pushed Amtrak to provide updates on its efforts to implement a key train safety feature, in addition to a progress report on the company’s overall “safety culture.”

In a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, Reps. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThanks to President Biden, infrastructure is bipartisan again — it needs to stay that way Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Senate punts on defense bill Biden's next challenge: Selling the infrastructure bill MORE (D-Ore.) and Michael CapuanoMichael (Mike) Everett CapuanoBottom line Hillicon Valley: Election officials prepare for new Russian interference battle | 'Markeyverse' of online fans helps take down a Kennedy | GOP senators unveil bill to update tech liability protections 'Markeyverse' of online fans helps take down a Kennedy MORE (D-Mass.) request that the railroad service, by February, provide them with the same information it provides the Federal Railroad Administration.

“We want and need the full picture, regardless of whether Amtrak owns it,” the lawmakers wrote, referring to infrastructure and locomotives.

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“If you operate it or operate on it, we want to know the status of [Positive Train Control] implementation in detail, including information on locomotives that are equipped by route, installation of track segments and other infrastructure by route, and information on whether your back office servers are connected to the back office servers of other railroads by route.”

DeFazio, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Capuano, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Railroads, introduced a bill last week that would give railroads until the end of 2018 to enact Positive Train Control (PTC), which automatically decreases the speed of a train traveling over the limit. 

The legislation follows the deadly Amtrak crash in Washington state last month, when a speeding train derailed while traveling across an overpass.

“Since the incident, it has become increasingly clear that we have no idea what the status is for PTC implementation on equipment that Amtrak does not own but operates, such as State-supported routes, like the Point Defiance Bypass, and on routes that Amtrak does not own but where Amtrak trains operate,” the lawmakers said.

Under the bill, titled the Positive Train Control Implementation and Financing Act, Amtrak must deliver updates about its headway enacting PTC in required reports. A preliminary assessment on the December crash found that PTC would have decreased the speed of the train, which had been traveling 78 mph in a 30 mph zone.

Additionally, the lawmakers ask Anderson to address what Amtrak has described as flaws in its “safety culture” and to detail the moves it is making to fix those issues.

“If there are problems holding the organization back from advancing the best safety practices, we would like Amtrak to identify them,” DeFazio and Capuano wrote. “Amtrak’s labor unions have been copied on this letter and we welcome their views on safety at Amtrak as well.”