PHILADELPHIA – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today released the following statement from Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg on the one-year anniversary of the Amtrak 188 derailment. The passenger train derailed during the evening of May 12, 2015. Eight people died and more than 200 were injured.
“One year ago today, Amtrak Train 188, traveling at more than 100 mph, derailed at Frankford Junction just north of Philadelphia. Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured. It was one of the worst days for passenger rail in many years. It was a devastating day for the families of those killed or injured. It was a heartbreaking day for the Federal Railroad Administration and the millions who count on rail every day. And it was an incident that could have been prevented.
If it is possible for anything positive to emerge from the wreckage of Amtrak 188, it is that the incident continues to serve as a constant reminder, and as a call to action, to implement every available safety technology and policy to prevent future derailments.
At the top of the list of those safety technologies continues to be Positive Train Control (PTC).
In 2008, after years of urging from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Congress passed legislation requiring the rail industry to implement PTC by December 31, 2015. At the time of the Amtrak derailment, we were just seven months from that deadline. Months later, Congress passed legislation that gave railroads more time for implementation—extending the deadline until at least 2018 or, in some cases, to 2020. While Congress gave railroads at least three more years to implement PTC, the public deserves it much sooner.
In the year since the Philadelphia derailment, we’ve seen significant progress on PTC implementation. Positive Train Control technology is now active on the Northeast Corridor—serving as one additional buffer of protection along the busiest corridor for passenger rail service in the country. However, the traveling public and train crews deserve that PTC be implemented elsewhere across the country as soon as possible. PTC prevents ‘human factor’ incidents like the derailment of 188 – and the urgency of full and effective PTC remains as pressing now as it was in the aftermath of last year’s incident.
But PTC is not the only safety improvement we need. The FRA has spent much of the last year focused on additional improvements that will enhance safety: addressing fatigue and distraction of train crews and engineers, continuing research into the crashworthiness of passenger cars so occupants are protected in the event of an incident, and more.
Rail travel is already safer than it was on the night of May 12, 2015, but we have more work to do. There is not a day that passes when the FRA does not think about and remember the victims of Amtrak 188, and ask what more can be done to keep people safe.”