US Amid spate of Amtrak mishaps, critics point to political inertia

17:27  10 february  2018
17:27  10 february  2018 Source:   msn.com

Train crash investigation focusing on truck driver's actions

  Train crash investigation focusing on truck driver's actions Investigators looking into Wednesday's deadly crash involving a train carrying GOP members of Congress are focusing on the actions of the driver of a truck the train struck, a source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN. Eyewitnesses have told National Transportation Safety Board investigators the truck driver -- who is alive but in serious condition, according to authorities -- was seen trying to snake his way through the crossing gates, despite signals that included lights warning of the oncoming train, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

Railroad safety has improved, but deadly mishaps including a South Carolina crash Sunday reveal a need for further gains. Experts say rules and funding decisions in Washington are part of the challenge.

Yet White House budget cuts targeting Amtrak amplify a passenger-rail paradox: an industry that runs on kinetic energy is challenged by political and bureaucratic inertia .

The site of the Feb. 4, 2018, early morning train crash between an Amtrak train, bottom, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce, S.C. © AP Photo/Jeff Blake The site of the Feb. 4, 2018, early morning train crash between an Amtrak train, bottom, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce, S.C.

Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf confessed recently to his brother that he had become increasingly worried about his own safety amid a string of deadly US train crashes.

Mr. Kempf, an Amtrak engineer from Savannah, Ga., was among two railroad employees killed as Train 91 from New York to Miami rolled through the South Carolina countryside early Sunday morning before crashing into a prone freight train. More than 100 passengers were hurt, most lightly.

It was the seventh major train accident for Amtrak in recent years, and the fourth incident in about two months.

Brother of Amtrak employee who died said sibling worried about safety

  Brother of Amtrak employee who died said sibling worried about safety The brother of Michael Kempf, an Amtrak employee killed when a train crashed on Sunday in South Carolina, said his brother often expressed safety concerns.The brother of an Amtrak engineer killed in a crash in South Carolina on Sunday said safety on the rails was among his sibling's biggest concern.

Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf confessed recently to his brother that he had become increasingly worried about his own safety amid a string of deadly US train crashes. Tags : Amid , spate , Amtrak , mishaps , critics , point , political , inertia .

Yet White House budget cuts targeting Amtrak amplify a passenger-rail paradox: an industry that runs on kinetic energy is challenged by political and bureaucratic inertia . Amtrak leaders have made similar points . “Look, this is basic infrastructure,” CEO Anderson told CBS News last fall.

Such private fears about getting hurt on the job ​– raised by a front-line engineer, and reported by the New York Daily News – symbolize a troubling set of realities facing not just Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, but also the US Congress as it confronts a looming debate on infrastructure funding.

Since President Nixon and a near-unanimous Congress moved to create the quasi-public rail giant in 1971, Washington has saddled Amtrak with the Sisyphean task of building profitable ridership while managing chronic funding shortages that have yielded a repair backlog exceeding $24 billion in its busy Northeast Corridor alone.

Now, Mr. Anderson, formerly head of Delta Airlines, is being leaned on to fast-track new standards and equipment that can tie safety more firmly to profit incentives. Yet White House budget cuts targeting Amtrak amplify a passenger-rail paradox: an industry that runs on kinetic energy is challenged by political and bureaucratic inertia.

NTSB: Amtrak engineer sounded horn, applied emergency brake in S.C. crash

  NTSB: Amtrak engineer sounded horn, applied emergency brake in S.C. crash The focus of the investigation remains on why a switch was in the wrong position, sending the train onto an occupied side track.The impact of the crash early Sunday was so intense that it moved the empty CSX freight train 15 feet from where it was parked on tracks adjacent to the main rail line, according to Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash. The Amtrak train's conductor and engineer were killed, and 116 others were hospitalized.

Amtrak leaders have made similar points . “Look, this is basic infrastructure,” CEO Anderson told CBS News last fall. © AP Photo/Jeff Blake The site of the Feb. Tags : Amid , spate , Amtrak , mishaps , critics , point , political , inertia .

Amid spate of amtrak mishaps critics point to political inertia . Uncategorized·December 6, 2016. Dictionary.com’s List of Every Word of the Year.

“How to get railroads back in the frontal lobes of both Congress and the public is a real challenge,” says MIT-trained signaling expert Steven Ditmeyer. But it may be starting to happen, he says. “I’m taking the Amtrak train on Wednesday to New York from Washington and I will be sensitive to these recent incidents, hoping that everybody is doing things properly.”

Ridership rising, safety improving

As Amtrak continues to gain passengers (total passenger trips neared 32 million in 2017) while maintaining 21,000 miles of track connecting 500 communities in 44 states, it remains one of the safest alternatives ​– far safer, mile for mile, than road travel.

“It’s actually getting better,” says Russell G. Quimby, a rail safety expert at Quimby Consulting in Omaha. Neb. The system’s safety record has improved over the past decade, he says, and the company has largely installed automated braking technology across its busy Northeast corridor, to head off accidents like the recent ones.

Charges reinstated vs. Amtrak engineer in Philadelphia crash

  Charges reinstated vs. Amtrak engineer in Philadelphia crash An Amtrak engineer has been ordered to stand trial on criminal charges for a deadly 2015 derailment in Philadelphia. A judge on Tuesday reinstated involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges against 34-year-old Brandon Bostian.Another judge had thrown out the charges last year, ruling that the evidence pointed to an accident, not negligence.Pennsylvania prosecutors appealed. Judge Kathryn S. Lewis ruled that the earlier judge had erred and that there was sufficient evidence to send the case to trial.Bostian sat stunned as the decision was announced.

Amid spate of Amtrak mishaps , critics point to political inertia . USA Update Amtrak train crash: Are train safety controls at fault?

End of the nuclear deal will help Iran’s economy, The world should stand with Israel against Hamas, How Irish democracy overcame fake news, Putin prioritizes diplomacy, Europe’s new privacy rules are an important step forward. Readers write: Global literature coverage, helpful piece about politics

But “Amtrak has been underfunded for years. It’s always popular for politicians to turn around and say, ‘Hey look at all this money that’s being wasted on Amtrak.’ If they want to [keep] Amtrak, they need to face up to their obligations.”

Yes, Amtrak is subsidized, but so are other forms of transportation systems from roads to airports, Mr. Quimby notes. And rail has some compelling advantages. A train uses only about gallon of fuel to move a one-ton load for 400 miles, he says. Whether that’s passengers or freight, “that’s a highly efficient system. We need railroads.”

Recent incidents

But three of the most recent accidents also showcase stubborn vulnerabilities, primarily the slow implementation of positive train control (PTC), the congressionally mandated GPS-centered safety system that can override technical and operator errors to automatically stop trains before they wreck.

While Amtrak has put PTC on nearly two-thirds of its tracks, freight companies that share tracks with passenger trains have been far slower, winning waivers from Congress to delay implementation as the technical challenges and costs mount.

Amtrak train breaks apart while traveling at high speed

  Amtrak train breaks apart while traveling at high speed Amtrak says the Acela 2150 train experienced a "mechanical issue when two of the train's cars separated"WASHINGTON -- An Amtrak train broke apart early Tuesday morning as it was traveling from Washington, D.C., to Boston. The Acela 2150 train experienced a "mechanical issue when two of the train's cars separated" just before 7 a.m., according to Amtrak spokesperson Jason Abrams.

Railroad safety has improved, but deadly mishaps including a South Carolina crash Sunday reveal a need for further gains. Yet White House budget cuts targeting Amtrak amplify a passenger-rail paradox: an industry that runs on kinetic energy is challenged by political and bureaucratic inertia .

You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience. Amid spate of Amtrak mishaps , critics point Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf confessed recently to his brother that he had become increasingly worried about his own safety amid a string of deadly

The system was not operational near Tacoma on Dec. 18, where a train derailed over an interstate bridge, leaving railcars dangling off the track. It was also not in operation last week in Virginia when a train chartered by House Republicans hit a garbage truck straddling the track. A small railroad company that owned the tracks had been exempted from tying railroad crossings into the PTC system. Investigators are trying to determine whether a faulty crossing gate may have contributed to the crash, and could have been detected.

And on Sunday in Cayce, S.C., PTC, if operational, may have been able to warn of a switch error or malfunction that caused the Amtrak train to follow a freight train onto a siding and crash.

Confounding safety investigations like the one in Tacoma are complicated maintenance agreements between different entities that make it difficult to pin blame. On Sunday, Mr. Anderson blamed the rail owner, CSX, for the switch issue that led the passenger locomotive astray.

Because Amtrak has installed PTC on the tracks it owns but is forced to use tracks owned by others, “this is a case where Amtrak is not 100 percent in control of its own destiny,” says Allan Zarembski, a University of Delaware expert on railroad safety.

Undergirding those problems is an institutional aversion to change, of which Congress bears some blame, says Ditmeyer.

What's going on with Amtrak? Few passengers killed on trains, but high-profile crashes spark concerns

  What's going on with Amtrak? Few passengers killed on trains, but high-profile crashes spark concerns A number of fatal Amtrak accidents in recent months is focusing renewed attention on the passenger railroad and its safety record. The latest deadly incident occurred Sunday in South Carolina.The crashes appear to stem from different causes, and federal investigators are sifting through each to find out what happened.Here's what is going on with Amtrak, its safety record and criticism in Congress about its subsidies:What accidents focused attention to Amtrak?• Feb. 4, 2018: An Amtrak train collided with a CSX freight train parked on a siding in Cayce, S.C., killing the train's engineer and conductor.

Amid spate of Amtrak mishaps , critics point to political inertia February 5, 2018. In big week for Brexit, battle deepens over the costs of 'opting out' February 5, 2018. The Fed’s drive for moral leadership in bank boards February 5, 2018.

In 2015, former Federal Railroad Administration chief Sarah Feinberg “lectured the railroads and said, ‘Don’t wait until 2018 [to fully implement PTC,] get going on it now,’ " Ditmeyer says. “But when she did that, the railroads got upset and got Congress to [add a law] that said, ‘Well, if railroads are showing good progress, they get an extension until 2020’.... The railroads take the position of doing only the minimum required by law.”

To be sure, the four big US freight rail companies have spent $8 billion over a decade. In context, Burlington Northern Santa Fe made revenues north of $5 billion in 2017 and spent $200 million on PTC. But Amtrak has completed more of the installation despite facing chronic funding shortages, largely the result of opposition from rural GOP interests that don’t see the benefits of the system.

Debate over subsidies

Amtrak faces a $630 million budget cut as the Trump administration attempts to steer the rail giant to focus more on its profitable routes, like the ones that crisscross the Northeast Corridor.

“People might say, Well, goodness gracious, that doesn’t line up with what the president said about a commitment to infrastructure,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a call with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association last year. “That was done intentionally. What we’ve effectively done is try to move money out of existing, more inefficient programs and hold that money for what we expect to be more efficient infrastructure programs later on.”

After SC train crash, wife of conductor sues Amtrak, CSX Corp

  After SC train crash, wife of conductor sues Amtrak, CSX Corp <p>The widow of an Amtrak train conductor killed this week in a South Carolina collision filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Amtrak and CSX Corp, the Florida Times-Union reported. Conductor Michael Cella and engineer Michael Kempf were killed in the Sunday crash between a New York-to-Miami Amtrak passenger train and an unoccupied CSX freight train.</p>The widow of an Amtrak train conductor killed this week in a South Carolina collision filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Amtrak and CSX Corp, the Florida Times-Union reported.

The Trump administration’s moves to force Amtrak to focus on profitable routes “has a fundamental problem, which is that passenger train operations are not for profit entities,” says Zarembski. “The vast majority of railroads are subsidized just like highways.”

Amtrak leaders have made similar points.

“Look, this is basic infrastructure,” CEO Anderson told CBS News last fall. “I think the subsidy last year for highways was $40 billion, subsidy for aviation was about $16 billion and when you think about what we do and what’s sort of fundamental to public policy, it’s to fund infrastructure.” (Amtrak’s subsidy totaled $1.8 billion last year.)

And former Amtrak CEO Charles Moorman told a House Committee in October, “We are working relentlessly to improve our safety culture, modernize and upgrade our products, leverage our asset portfolio, and strengthen our operational efficiency and project delivery. [But] capital funding is not keeping pace with the risks facing Amtrak’s infrastructure and fleet.”

A friend of the other Amtrak employee killed Sunday, conductor Michael Cella, noted in a TV interview that he hopes a broader “blame game” doesn’t take over that debate. “I want [Mr. Cella’s] legacy to be that they improve safety on the railroad because of what happened Sunday.”

Staff writers Mark Trumbull and Laurent Belsie contributed to this story.

This article was written by Patrik Jonsson from Christian Science Monitor and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Who's at fault in Amtrak crash? Amtrak will pay regardless .
Federal investigators are still looking at how CSX railway crews routed an Amtrak train into a parked freight train in Cayce, South Carolina, last weekend. But even if CSX should bear sole responsibility for the accident, Amtrak will likely end up paying crash victims' legal claims with public money.Amtrak pays for accidents it didn't cause because of secretive agreements negotiated between the passenger rail company, which receives more than $1 billion annually in federal subsidies, and the private railroads, which own 97 percent of the tracks on which Amtrak travels.

Source: http://us.pressfrom.com/news/us/-119246-amid-spate-of-amtrak-mishaps-critics-point-to-political-inertia/

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks
This is interesting!