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Amtrak Cascades Train 501 Derails Off Interstate 5 Overpass near DuPont, WA

Amtrak Cascades Train 501 Derails Off Interstate 5 Overpass near DuPont, WA

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Old Dec 18, 17, 4:28 pm
  #31  
 
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Originally Posted by Traveller View Post
For those of us that don't work in the field, what is PTC? I did google, but I still don't know.
Positive Train Control. Basically, it's an automated system that will apply the brakes on the train unless it receives a signal indicating that it's okay to proceed at speed. In situations where an engineer misses a speed restriction sign or a restricting signal, it would apply the brakes automatically to avoid entering a track section at too high of a speed.
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Old Dec 18, 17, 4:37 pm
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Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
MrsCP's company was selling PTC solutions at least 8 years ago.
Unless she works for Wabtec or GE, the product probably doesn't meet the needs of US railroads. The system also has to meet minimum requirements as outlined by the law. The prevalent system right now is ACSES/ACSES-II which was developed by Alstom for Amtrak and has been in use since 2000 on the Northeast Corridor although it was not installed on the entire system at the time of the crash in 2015. Freight railroads are moving to get I-ETMS by Wabtec at the moment, which is compatible with ACSES and can operate alongside it.

The problem with getting the ball rolling after the mandate is that passenger railroads (such as commuter operations, not Amtrak) suddenly have to find money to pay for it, and if they received federal funding for the installation (which most did), they're only allowed to buy one from an American company per the Buy America act. Most east coast commuter railroads are getting ACSES-II.

The system that the freight railroads get also have to be compatible with Amtrak's ACSES so that Amtrak can continue to operate over their tracks, as well is interoperability with any other competing systems that other freight railroads might install as they frequently interchange trains with the locomotives. The five major freight railroads (BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern, and CSX) are all getting Wabtec's I-ETMS.
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Old Dec 18, 17, 9:01 pm
  #33  
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Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
Six fatalities reported - I fear that's just a start.
No use speculating -- Reports tonight saying 6 has been changed to 3:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/18/us/amtrak-derailment-washington/index.html
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Old Dec 18, 17, 9:16 pm
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Seems to me that whomever was tasked with operating the inaugural service would also have been part of the test runs and would know that the corner is a slow zone. It’s not a foregone conclusion that speed caused this. Mechanical failure is a possibility. That being said, mistakes happen and this one is costly in lives. Will be costly in courts too. Sad day up here indeed.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 7:16 am
  #35  
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The NTSB has confirmed that the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph area prior to the derailment, though they also stated that the train's speed upon reaching the curve is not clear to them as of yet.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-...in-30-mph-zone
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Old Dec 19, 17, 7:53 am
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Originally Posted by TheBOSman View Post
The NTSB has confirmed that the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph area prior to the derailment, though they also stated that the train's speed upon reaching the curve is not clear to them as of yet.
NTSB has only retrieved the rear engine's event recorder (black box) which would not have as much detail information as the operating head engine. It would have speed and brake pipe indications but not when throttle movements, alerter response etc.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 7:53 am
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Is there an actual quote from the NTSB? Some reports are saying 80 in a 30 zone, which could have been before the accident. Others are saying
showed the train was traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when it derailed.
the speed of the train at the time of the accident had been determined
News organizations tend to be quite imprecise these days.

Reports also seem to confirm that PTC was installed but not activate.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 8:03 am
  #38  
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Originally Posted by Brighton Line View Post
NTSB has only retrieved the rear engine's event recorder (black box) which would not have as much detail information as the operating head engine. It would have speed and brake pipe indications but not when throttle movements, alerter response etc.
Right. I'm sure they will access the lead locomotive eventually, but it took a bit of damage in the derailment. The rear locomotive was basically untouched as it didn't even derail at all, so it was surely easy to access.

Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
Is there an actual quote from the NTSB? Some reports are saying 80 in a 30 zone, which could have been before the accident. Others are saying
What I wrote is how I interpreted what I read. I've forgotten more about railroad operations than 95% of the people reporting on this will ever know. You seem to address this below:

Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
News organizations tend to be quite imprecise these days.
I took what the NTSB said from the NPR article where they directly quoted NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr.

Here's a CNN article, but more importantly the video contained is directly the words of member Dinh-Zarr: The questions investigators will be asking after Amtrak derailment - CNN
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Old Dec 19, 17, 9:05 am
  #39  
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Two perspectives:

1) I work with industries that handle hazardous materials. In general, we constantly seek to evolve and improve the technologies for safely handling those materials. However, it is recognized that, when advancements are made, it is not always feasible to integrate those advancements into existing facilities... at least, not immediately. However, emphasis is placed on (and sometimes mandates require) integrating those advanced technologies into new facilities and significant modifications to existing facilities. Over $180 million were spent on this new/extended rail line. Why was it not required that the PTC system be in service before the first commercial run? It is unconscionable that it was not.

2) I was recently at a customer site, riding in a sedan to reach a remote portion of the facility. En route, we received several alarms sounding in the vehicle. The driver explained that the vehicle was equipped with a GPS-based system that alerted him whenever he exceeded the posted speed limit, and he had crept 1 or 2 mph above the limit. The speed limit varied depending upon the conditions of the area, and the monitor kept track of the appropriate speed limit at which to sound the alarm. All motor vehicles on the site were so equipped. My client felt the financial investment was warranted to help protect the 1 or 2 occupants of each vehicle against the potential consequences of a 15 mph collision. But, AMTRAK appears to have been less interested in protecting a train, configured to carry hundreds of passengers, from an 80 mph derailment.

AMTRAK's new CEO, Richard Anderson, tweeted:

"On behalf of everyone at Amtrak, we are deeply saddened by all that has happened today. We will do everything in our power to support our passengers and crew and their families.”

It's a shame that doing "everything in our power" previously did not include ensuring that current safety technology had been fully implemented on a new rail service.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 9:50 am
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I found the actual video:

"preliminary indications are that the train was travelling at 80 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour track"

So none of the reports are actual quotes, and those that state the speed at the time of the crash are making assumptions.

Not that it matters much - I'm fairly confident it didn't slow substantially and the NTSB wouldn't throw this fact out there if the 30mph zone was 15 miles earlier.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 12:19 pm
  #41  
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Originally Posted by StayingHomeIsBetter View Post
It's a shame that doing "everything in our power" previously did not include ensuring that current safety technology had been fully implemented on a new rail service.
PTC requires track installations as well as cab equipment. Amtrak doesn't own the track here. Ask Sound Transit.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 12:21 pm
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Originally Posted by StayingHomeIsBetter View Post
Two perspectives:

1) I work with industries that handle hazardous materials. In general, we constantly seek to evolve and improve the technologies for safely handling those materials. However, it is recognized that, when advancements are made, it is not always feasible to integrate those advancements into existing facilities... at least, not immediately. However, emphasis is placed on (and sometimes mandates require) integrating those advanced technologies into new facilities and significant modifications to existing facilities. Over $180 million were spent on this new/extended rail line. Why was it not required that the PTC system be in service before the first commercial run? It is unconscionable that it was not.

2) I was recently at a customer site, riding in a sedan to reach a remote portion of the facility. En route, we received several alarms sounding in the vehicle. The driver explained that the vehicle was equipped with a GPS-based system that alerted him whenever he exceeded the posted speed limit, and he had crept 1 or 2 mph above the limit. The speed limit varied depending upon the conditions of the area, and the monitor kept track of the appropriate speed limit at which to sound the alarm. All motor vehicles on the site were so equipped. My client felt the financial investment was warranted to help protect the 1 or 2 occupants of each vehicle against the potential consequences of a 15 mph collision. But, AMTRAK appears to have been less interested in protecting a train, configured to carry hundreds of passengers, from an 80 mph derailment.

AMTRAK's new CEO, Richard Anderson, tweeted:

"On behalf of everyone at Amtrak, we are deeply saddened by all that has happened today. We will do everything in our power to support our passengers and crew and their families.”

It's a shame that doing "everything in our power" previously did not include ensuring that current safety technology had been fully implemented on a new rail service.
I agree with most of what you say. But when it comes to Amtrak investment, I'm pretty hesitant to primarily blame Amtrak's management (not that they're blameless). I think much more of the fault lies with Congress, which tells Amtrak which routes to serve (even loss-making ones) and to implement PTC but doesn't provide the funding to make either possible with long-term investment. Congress can sensibly do neither or both, but not the mandate without the funding. In this case, I don't know the details: did WSDOT (which was responsible for the Point Defiance Bypass project, using Recovery Act funds) or Sound Transit (which owns the tracks) or BNSF (which dispatches the area and owned the tracks until fairly recently) fail to include the funding for PTC? Does implementing PTC on just one stretch of track work, or does it have to be turned on everywhere in the region to work?

At the same time, I think the talk about PTC misses the mark somewhat. Yes, it would help; based on what we know now, it seems likely that it would have prevented this accident. But the engineer slowing down appropriately would also have prevented the accident, and I don't think it's unfair to expect an engineer (or a driver in a motor vehicle) to obey the posted speed limit (or at least be close to it). Just like with partially self-driven cars, though I'm sure it is a considerable net safety improvement, I also fear the safety implications of engineers relying on PTC instead of it being a backup. I think it goes without saying that this accident should not have happened irrespective of PTC being in place, and treating PTC as a panacea is dangerous.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 1:11 pm
  #43  
 
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Longtime rail advocates among those killed in Amtrak train derailment in Washington

From the Seattle Times:
Zack Willhoite and Jim Hamre, two longtime rail advocates, were among those killed in the Monday derailment of an Amtrak train near Olympia.
and
Willhoite was a member of the enthusiasts’ group All Aboard Washington, and he was riding the Amtrak Cascades 501 with Jim Hamre, a fellow member.
and
The Rail Passengers Association confirmed Hamre, a former employee of the Washington State Department of Transportation and Puyallup resident, was also among the victims.

Hamre was a board member of the association, a national group that advocates for Amtrak and commuter-rail passengers. He was also vice president of All Aboard Washington.

“Jim was among the country’s most-respected and effective rail advocates and a good friend and mentor to me,” said Jim Mathews, president of the Rail Passengers Association. “I will miss his counsel and our community is poorer for his loss.”
Link to the full article: Seattle Times - Longtime rail advocates among those killed in Amtrak train derailment in Washington state (December 19, 2017)
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Old Dec 19, 17, 1:18 pm
  #44  
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Originally Posted by ashill View Post
...

At the same time, I think the talk about PTC misses the mark somewhat. Yes, it would help; based on what we know now, it seems likely that it would have prevented this accident. But the engineer slowing down appropriately would also have prevented the accident, and I don't think it's unfair to expect an engineer (or a driver in a motor vehicle) to obey the posted speed limit (or at least be close to it). Just like with partially self-driven cars, though I'm sure it is a considerable net safety improvement, I also fear the safety implications of engineers relying on PTC instead of it being a backup. I think it goes without saying that this accident should not have happened irrespective of PTC being in place, and treating PTC as a panacea is dangerous.
I agree with your premise that the engineers cannot be relieved of their responsibilities.

But, would you remove all of the warning signals that airline pilots receive... or, for that matter, autopilots... for fear that the pilots might become too reliant on them?

PTC should only be a back-up to engineer diligence.

But, people become distracted. Their performance can be degraded by myriad factors. Having a safety system to supplement their performance is prudent, and the technology exists.

Spending $180 million on this line, and starting it up without proven, available safety technology in place and fully functioning was tragically shortsighted.

I suspect that there are at least three families that would agree with that assertion.
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Old Dec 19, 17, 3:42 pm
  #45  
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A very good post on the incident:

https://itineranturbanist.wordpress....ut-amtrak-501/
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