A National Transportation Safety Board report about an Amtrak train accident last year in Philadelphia that killed eight people highlights the need for railroads to move faster to install a life-saving technology that the safety board first recommended decades ago.
Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train No. 188 derailed on May 12, 2015 because it entered a curve at 106 miles per hour, more than twice the speed at which it should have been traveling. The safety board said it appears that the engineer operating the train, Brandon Bostian, did not realize the train was approaching that curve because he was distracted by radio transmissions about another train. More than 200 people were injured in the derailment.
Like many rail accidents, this derailment could have been avoided if the railroad had been using a safety system called positive train control in that part of its network. The technology can automatically slow or stop trains to avoid collisions or derailments. Amtrak has since finished deploying positive train control on all the tracks it owns between Washington and New York. The system has not yet been installed on tracks used by Amtrak that are owned by other railroads or state governments.