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Amtrak train derails in philly, 8 dead and more than 200 injured


cteno4

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Hello,

 

The human error is in allowing one's self to be distracted.  

That is true.  You have to be able to hear radio transmissions to and from other trains operating on the route to give yourself awareness of developing situations and emergencies but you also have to keep focused on where you are and the track ahead.

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The locomotive family is used for high speed trains all over the world, so it can accelerate really fast. The error could be that the driver thought that the end of the shallow curve was the end of the more serious one. Combined with distraction and what seem (for me) to be microsleep he accelerated too soon and to a way too high speed.

 

I still find it a bad idea to buy high speed locomotives and skip the safety equipment. Especially considering how cheap it is compared to other costs.

 

ps: yes, the NTSB is really slow...

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Ochanomizu

Hello,

 

Yes.  Safety relies on a complete system.  I agree with your comment about skipping the safety equipment.  However, the overarching factor in a safe rail network is the human factor.  Drivers must be aware of what equipment is installed and how it is to be used.  They must also remain focused on the job at hand.  You cannot drive a train and listen to the AM radio, read the newspaper, or eat your McDonalds.  I have seen this on many foreign networks.  Certain countries seem to accept this more than others, but fail to consider the associated risks.

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It was rail radio traffic they were referring to.

 

To be fair to the driver he by all accounts was a very conscientious driver, but appeared to pull a long shift. Still very unclear as to why he accelerated at that point.

 

Jeff

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It was rail radio traffic they were referring to.

Yes, not AM/FM.  The NTSB investigation has cleared the engineer of misconduct such as using a cell phone, eating McDonalds, etc (first link below).

 

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/real-time/5-takeaways-from-NTSB-hearing-on-Amtrak-derailment.html

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20160518_NTSB__Amtrak_engineer__distracted_by_radio_talk__lost_awareness_of_curve.html

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/in-transit/Who-threw-the-rock.html

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This brings into question Amtrak's policy of only having one man in the cab.

 

What they'll pay to settle the suits would have covered the salary of a second engineer for the next century and beyond.

 

Advanced safety equipment is one thing, but wouldn't be needed if there's a human voice saying,

"Hey - what the hell are you doing?"

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For many european railroads it's either PTC or an assistant engineer. And in case of PTC failiure (or unequipped section), the conductor (if present) have to go to the front cab to act as an assistant engineer or the train can only proceed at walking speed. Amtrak in this case seems to have taken one man operation a bit too far.

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Somewhere I read the train was going twice the speed... And that the engineer forgot where he was at. Which makes one have to wonder when are they going to put GPS & a storm scope in the cab. So as to know where there at and when a violent storm is nearby. Or just go engineer less and have a unhackable computer in the cab... As the UK in the past were working on pilotless aircraft and Boeing has already landed and launched a drone from an aircraft carrier. Wonder when the gov't is going to wake up and start using systems that are proven to be safer than human error.

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bikkuri bahn
Wonder when the gov't is going to wake up and start using systems that are proven to be safer than human error.     

 

     I'm not hopeful...

House Republicans voted down legislation on Wednesday that would have increased funding in a transportation spending bill for Amtrak, in the wake of a deadly train accident in Philadelphia. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., offered the measure to a spending bill that significantly cuts Amtrak’s funding.

 

http://www.ibtimes.com/republicans-reject-pennsylvania-congressmans-proposed-increase-amtraks-funding-1920567

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Ochanomizu

Hello,

 

Yes, I was aware that the "radio" was a proprietary band two-way system and not the AM/FM general broadcast bands.  My comment regarding AM reflected what I have seen whilst travelling in certain other countries.

 

I have now read the new links posted.  Thank you for posting.  It appears that the driver lost "situational awareness" while listening to the two-way broadcast regarding another incident.  It leads me to wonder why he was so interested?  Was the incident ahead of him on the line?  Was it a potential threat to the safety of his passengers?  

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Ochanomizu - That was covered early in the thread and also in the links I posted.

 

 

 

It was a thrown stone hitting the windshield of a commuter train in the Philly area.

 

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I know I would certainly be paying attention to a two way radio conversation about a train ahead of me being rocked but you still need to pay attention to where you are, one of the most used words during driver training here is 'prioritise'.

 

When operating at the speeds of the Northeast Corridor however there should either be some form of PTC or a second qualified person in the cab but unfortunately both cost money and most railway operator's priorities are 1: cut costs, 2: on time running, 3: cut costs some more, then maybe 4: safety.

 

The immediate responsiblity for the crash may lie with the driver in this case but he was only doing the best he could with the resources given to him by those in charge, in this case the U.S. Government.  As is the case everywhere, somewhere between the person with the hand on the throttle and the white house the sentence "We can't do the job you are asking us to do with the resources and equipment you give us" turns into "Yes sir, it'll be done sir, would you like to bend over so I can kiss your backside again sir?".

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The immediate responsiblity for the crash may lie with the driver in this case but he was only doing the best he could with the resources given to him by those in charge, in this case the U.S. Government.  As is the case everywhere, somewhere between the person with the hand on the throttle and the white house the sentence "We can't do the job you are asking us to do with the resources and equipment you give us" turns into "Yes sir, it'll be done sir, would you like to bend over so I can kiss your backside again sir?".

 

That simply isn't true.  He screwed up - pure and simple.  There are hundreds of other Amtrak engineers who do prioritize and don't lose track of where they are.  He may well have had a good career until that point, but when you're responsible for hundreds of lives you need to be on top of the game 100% of the time.  The crash happened because he wasn't in fact doing his best, so don't talk lame BS blaming the government. 

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Humans make errors. If the number of human errors could be decreased for an acceptable cost then that should be done. Not tomorrow or after an accident but asap. In this case an assistant driver or ptc would have worked fine to prevent the accident. Passive speed limit ptc balises are dirt cheap so imho leaving this stretch unmarked was stupid. With the old interlocked system it would work reliably. Afaik that's what amtrak installed right after the cleanup.

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But that's the point, you can expect 100% from humans 100% of the time, they do screw up, even the good ones at times. So do automated systems. That's why we're try to combine them in ways that both don't screw up at the same time and they can cover each others' mistakes in situations were lives are at stake.

 

Jeff

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That simply isn't true.  He screwed up - pure and simple.  There are hundreds of other Amtrak engineers who do prioritize and don't lose track of where they are.  He may well have had a good career until that point, but when you're responsible for hundreds of lives you need to be on top of the game 100% of the time.  The crash happened because he wasn't in fact doing his best, so don't talk lame BS blaming the government. 

I agreed he screwed up but if those above him did their jobs properly he wouldn't have been able to.  The crash would not have happened if the railway operator, in this case the government, had dug into their pockets and spent an infantesimal percentage of their budget on PTC or employing a second person in the cab.  I suggest that more engineers lose track of where they are than you think, this was just one of the very rare cases when it happened at the wrong place and time.

 

Apologies for getting on my soap box but from my 37 years in railway service the buck always seems to stop at the person on the bottom of the pile.

Edited by westfalen
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OK - the crash could have been prevented by improved infrastructure and / or policy, but that doesn't make this statement any more true, ". . . but he was only doing the best he could with the resources given to him by those in charge, in this case the U.S. Government."  No resources were withheld from him.

 

It sounds like you have an issue with your employer / government, and are transferring this to the U.S. Government. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But the government (and Amtrak who is a quasi governmental company) is the one who has dragged its heals in getting the safety infrastructure in there with poor funding and allowing extensions to the deadlines. It was an accident waiting to happen and could have been prevented with the proper safety infrastructure or having two drivers,

 

Jeff

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Somewhere along the chain of Amtrak's management someone must have said, "We can't run a safe high speed service on the Northeast Corridor without PTC or a second man in the cab", and their boss replied, "I'm sorry but you're not going to get the money for that but we want a high speed service anyway", the gutless yes man then says, "Yes sir we'll but we'll do it anyway" instead of, "Well there will be no high speed service then because safety has to come first".

 

Another way to look at is would you board, or would the safety regulators allow it to take off in the first place, a jet airliner with only one qualified pilot in the cockpit and no working radar thereby relying only on the lone pilot's wits and ability to keep focused.  A high speed railway is no different and corners shouldn't be cut on the grounds of how much it costs and the railway management and politicians who let it happen should be just as culpable as the poor engineer who is guilty of a momentary lapse in concentration, but there will be no inquiry into who signed off on allowing that section of the Northeast Corridor to run without PTC.

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marknewton

That simply isn't true. He screwed up - pure and simple. There are hundreds of other Amtrak engineers who do prioritize and don't lose track of where they are. He may well have had a good career until that point, but when you're responsible for hundreds of lives you need to be on top of the game 100% of the time. The crash happened because he wasn't in fact doing his best, so don't talk lame BS blaming the government.

I don't want to start an argument Charles, but your post is "lame BS". No-one is 100% on top of their game 100% of the time. You aren't, I'm not, and neither is anyone else who runs trains for a living. So you either acknowledge and accept this fact, and provide adequate systems and safeguards to compensate for that, or you don't. If you don't, you get incidents like this occurring.

 

And with the best will in the world, if your government isn't to blame for not providing systems and safeguards on the railway that they own and operate, who is?

 

Mark.

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marknewton

Apologies for getting on my soap box but from my 37 years in railway service the buck always seems to stop at the person on the bottom of the pile.

As our old loco inspector used to say, if the prang doesn't kill you, the inquiry will.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark.

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