Government Issues

Amtrak ordered to control Northeast Corridor train speed

Posted on May 22, 2015

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued an Emergency Order that will assist in controlling passenger train speeds at certain locations on the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The order is the latest in a series of actions the FRA has taken in the wake of last week’s derailment of Amtrak Train #188.

FRA also announced its intention to take additional actions in the coming days to address potential speed issues on all other passenger corridors.

Last Saturday, FRA instructed Amtrak to immediately take several actions to improve safety along the NEC. As stated in that weekend announcement, today’s Emergency Order formalizes those instructions.

The Emergency Order requires Amtrak to take a series of steps to improve safety along the Northeast Corridor, including implementing Automatic Train Control (ATC) code changes and modifications, adopting other safety procedures at several curve locations with significant speed reductions and submitting an action plan to FRA outlining additional steps.

FRA will take additional steps in the coming days and weeks to ensure other corridors are addressing potential over-speed issues as well.

“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail corridor in the country, and the steps we have ordered Amtrak to take will immediately improve safety on this busy corridor,” said Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “But in the days and weeks to come, we will also do more — while FRA will continue to push Amtrak and other commuter lines to achieve full implementation of Positive Train Control, we will also work with them in the short term to immediately address potential over-speed issues.”

The Emergency Order requires Amtrak to immediately implement a code change to its ATC system near the Frankford Junction curve in Philadelphia. The change must enforce the passenger train speed limit of 50 mph, or lower, for northbound trains approaching the curve. Amtrak implemented this change prior to the restart of service on Monday.

In addition, Amtrak must survey the NEC to identify each main track curve where there is a reduction of more than 20 mph from the maximum authorized approach speed to that curve for passenger trains and provide a list of each location to the FRA.

Following Amtrak’s identification of the curves referenced above, Amtrak must develop and submit an action plan to FRA that accomplishes each of the following:

  • Identify appropriate modifications to Amtrak’s existing ATC system or other signal systems (or alternative operational changes) to enable warning and enforcement of applicable passenger train speeds at identified curves.
  • Target dates for implementing each identified modification to Amtrak’s existing ATC system or other signal systems (or alternative operational changes) to enable warning and enforcement of passenger train speeds at the identified curves.

Amtrak must submit the action plan to the FRA within 20 days of the date of the Emergency Order.

In addition, Amtrak must begin to install additional wayside signage alerting engineers and conductors of the maximum authorized passenger train speed throughout its Northeast Corridor system no later than 30 days after the date of the order.

To view a copy of the Emergency Order, click here.

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