The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Thursday again called on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak to immediately end the use of “Approaching Train Warning” (TAW) as the only method of safety. on the track in the covered areas. by positive train control.
TAW is an older method of using designated guards to watch for approaching trains in a work area. By using TAW instead of the available protections provided by advanced positive train control (PTC) systems, Amtrak bypassed important PTC safety features that could help prevent the deaths of railway workers, NTSB officials said in a report. Press release.
The recommendations issued Thursday address safety concerns, including an inadequate assessment of site safety risks, unsafe train speeds in work areas, failure to adhere to the use of PTC to protect workers from the road and ineffective protection of road workers.
The safety recommendations issued in Railway accident report 02/21, are based on the April 24, 2018 crash in which an Amtrak train attendant was killed in Bowie, Maryland. The NTSB determined that “Amtrak’s insufficient site-specific safety work plan for the Bowie Project did not sufficiently address the challenges of several main tracks in a very noisy environment,” NTSB officials said.
The guard in that case was focused on the movement of a southbound MARC commuter train when it was struck from behind by a northbound Amtrak high-speed train, they said.
The PTC could have been used to enforce speed restrictions, which would have automatically reduced the speed of trains in the work area. Or, PTC could have been used to prevent trains from entering the work area, NTSB officials said.
“Amtrak’s decision to use TAW in a high-risk area allowed road workers to be exposed to the dangers of simultaneous two-way train movements at speeds of up to 125 mph,” they said. declared.
NTSB President Jennifer Homendy said on Thursday that the railways did not need to wait for the FRA to act. In a letter to Amtrak and the Is class, Homendy said that continued use of TAW bypasses protections that would be provided by positive train control (PTC) in controlled track territory.
“In short, the decades of funding, research, equipment, and training that you have put into implementing PTC are being undone by the continued use of TAW,” Homendy’s letter said. “The continued use of TAW as a method of track safety is a deadly risk that cannot be expected of your road workers to bear. “
The NTSB noted in its press release that railway worker deaths are “far too frequent”. Since 1997, 459 railway workers have been killed on the job, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration. In 2020 alone, the council investigated eight accidents involving fatalities of railway and transit workers.
“More action needs to be taken to protect train crews, track maintenance workers and mechanical workers from death or injury,” said Thomas Chapman, a member of the NTSB, who focused on the improving the safety of railway workers. “Our investigations have shown us that many of these accidents are tragically preventable.