Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Other Loyalty Programs/Partners > Amtrak | Guest Rewards
Reload this Page >

Amtrak/CSX Collision in South Carolina

Amtrak/CSX Collision in South Carolina

Old Feb 4, 18, 8:33 am
  #1  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Pittsburgh
Programs: MR/SPG LT Titanium, AA LT PLT, UA SLV, Avis PreferredPlus
Posts: 28,096
Amtrak/CSX Collision in South Carolina

Another fatal accident today - 2 trains on the same track.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/04/us/am...ash/index.html
CPRich is offline  
Old Feb 4, 18, 9:09 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: トロント
Programs: AC E50K, Accor , ANA, Avios
Posts: 4,512
Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
Another fatal accident today - 2 trains on the same track.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/04/us/am...ash/index.html
Considering the relatively small size of the US passenger rail network, they have way, way too many train accidents.

Look at Japan...a small country but a very dense rail network. Very few accidents (and really none on the Shinkansen which I admit is to a much different standard that regular rail lines). They have many rail lines with level crossings and yet a good safety record.

I wonder if India has a better rail safety record than the US (per passenger mile).
mapleg is offline  
Old Feb 4, 18, 1:26 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: DTW/FNT
Programs: Delta (nee NW), Hilton Diamond. IHG (PT)
Posts: 4,806
Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
Another fatal accident today - 2 trains on the same track.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/04/us/am...ash/index.html
The information that has reached me indicates two things went wrong -- some of the signals in the area were not working properly, but were being worked on by CSX and a switch was in the wrong position.

W/o working signals, there was no way the engineer could know something was wrong.

Bob H
BobH is offline  
Old Feb 4, 18, 4:23 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,576
Originally Posted by mapleg View Post
Considering the relatively small size of the US passenger rail network, they have way, way too many train accidents. .
Particularly significant when you consider that there were no domestic air traveler fatalities in 2017.

Last edited by SCEflyer; Feb 4, 18 at 4:26 pm Reason: Typo
SCEflyer is offline  
Old Feb 4, 18, 7:44 pm
  #5  
In Memoriam
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: New York, NY, USA
Programs: HH Diamond, Amtrak Exec
Posts: 3,262
Originally Posted by BobH View Post
The information that has reached me indicates two things went wrong -- some of the signals in the area were not working properly, but were being worked on by CSX and a switch was in the wrong position.

W/o working signals, there was no way the engineer could know something was wrong.

Bob H
While I won't go so far as to say that this is confirmed information; a reliable source that I know says that the signals in the area were down because CSX was working on cutting in PTC in this area. So the Amtrak train was operating under track warrant controls.

As for the switch, there is no doubt that it was in the wrong position. At this point, the question is did the CSX crew release their track warrant without properly realigning the switch? Or did the Amtrak crew go past the limits of their track warrant? Based upon an earlier preliminary report that stated that the CSX crew wasn't even with their train; that would seem to lend some credence to the former scenario. But it is still way too early to know for certain!!!

With regard to the engineer knowing that anything was wrong, without signals, at 55mph in the dark, at best he'd have had maybe 1 second to realize that the switch was set wrong. And I doubt that he had more than 10 seconds before his engine slammed into the CSX train.
AlanB is offline  
Old Feb 4, 18, 9:18 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: ATL Lost Luggage
Programs: Kettle with Kryptonium Medallion Tags
Posts: 6,649
Originally Posted by AlanB View Post
With regard to the engineer knowing that anything was wrong, without signals, at 55mph in the dark, at best he'd have had maybe 1 second to realize that the switch was set wrong. And I doubt that he had more than 10 seconds before his engine slammed into the CSX train.
On another forum, a retired railroad employee is claiming that the railroad rulebook requires that trains operate at reduced speed during signal suspension and that the Amtrak train should have been going slow enough to confirm the position of the switch points before passing over them.
RatherBeOnATrain is offline  
Old Feb 4, 18, 10:19 pm
  #7  
In Memoriam
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: New York, NY, USA
Programs: HH Diamond, Amtrak Exec
Posts: 3,262
Originally Posted by RatherBeOnATrain View Post
On another forum, a retired railroad employee is claiming that the railroad rulebook requires that trains operate at reduced speed during signal suspension and that the Amtrak train should have been going slow enough to confirm the position of the switch points before passing over them.
First let me say that I'm not a RR employee, and never worked for a RR. But I've been around train forums for many years and still help to run one.

That said, I've never heard that rule that he speaks of. There is a rule that says if a signal fails, or is somehow not under the proper control of the dispatcher, that the crew must operate the train at a reduced speed until the next good signal. Additionally, there is a rule that states that if the train stops for any reason, like at a station, and the crew cannot see the next signal that they must operate the train as though the next signal will be red and they will need to stop. it's called the delayed in block or DIB rule.

But based upon the reporting so far, neither is the case here. According to what I've seen, all the signals in a specific area were deliberately turned off by CSX. That causes the RR to revert to Track Warrant operations. And under track warrant operations, assuming no other factors like recent track work, the train would be allowed to operate at normal track speeds for that area. There are actually a few places where Amtrak and the host RR, still operate under track warrant rules because there are no signals at all. Not many left where Amtrak operates, and under the Congressional mandate for PTC, even those areas must be signaled and have PTC installed.
jackal and wrp96 like this.
AlanB is offline  
Old Feb 4, 18, 11:42 pm
  #8  
Moderator, Alaska Airlines & FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: SGF
Programs: AS, AA, UA, AGR (ex-75K, GLD, 1K, and S+), Choice Diamond, HZ PC, Costco Exec, NPS Passport
Posts: 22,928
Originally Posted by AlanB View Post
First let me say that I'm not a RR employee, and never worked for a RR. But I've been around train forums for many years and still help to run one.

That said, I've never heard that rule that he speaks of. There is a rule that says if a signal fails, or is somehow not under the proper control of the dispatcher, that the crew must operate the train at a reduced speed until the next good signal. Additionally, there is a rule that states that if the train stops for any reason, like at a station, and the crew cannot see the next signal that they must operate the train as though the next signal will be red and they will need to stop. it's called the delayed in block or DIB rule.

But based upon the reporting so far, neither is the case here. According to what I've seen, all the signals in a specific area were deliberately turned off by CSX. That causes the RR to revert to Track Warrant operations. And under track warrant operations, assuming no other factors like recent track work, the train would be allowed to operate at normal track speeds for that area. There are actually a few places where Amtrak and the host RR, still operate under track warrant rules because there are no signals at all. Not many left where Amtrak operates, and under the Congressional mandate for PTC, even those areas must be signaled and have PTC installed.
Thanks for posting. I did work for a railroad (albeit only for a summer, and not one of the majors, though we used the same rulebook and training system BNSF uses) and couldn't recall any specific provisions for slow speeds when signals were inoperative. I almost posted earlier but I wasn't sure enough to stand on it, but I'm fairly sure I can corroborate your belief.

That said, I do seem to recall that maximum allowed speeds in dark territory (track warrants or direct traffic control--anything without signals) were 59mph passenger and 49mph freight. That very well could have been a restriction at my railroad or caused by something else, but either way, the 55mph that Amtrak was traveling would have been perfectly normal for a line without ABS or CTC.
jackal is offline  
Old Feb 5, 18, 11:47 am
  #9  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Programs: Formaldehyde Medallion DL DieMiles
Posts: 12,341
Originally Posted by AlanB View Post
While I won't go so far as to say that this is confirmed information; a reliable source that I know says that the signals in the area were down because CSX was working on cutting in PTC in this area. So the Amtrak train was operating under track warrant controls.

As for the switch, there is no doubt that it was in the wrong position. At this point, the question is did the CSX crew release their track warrant without properly realigning the switch? Or did the Amtrak crew go past the limits of their track warrant? Based upon an earlier preliminary report that stated that the CSX crew wasn't even with their train; that would seem to lend some credence to the former scenario. But it is still way too early to know for certain!!!

With regard to the engineer knowing that anything was wrong, without signals, at 55mph in the dark, at best he'd have had maybe 1 second to realize that the switch was set wrong. And I doubt that he had more than 10 seconds before his engine slammed into the CSX train.
Amtrak owns just under 30% of the track that they run on (28% per AMTRAK's website).

This suggest two logical inferences:

1) Amtrak has to know how to properly implement switch changes and signal outages (etc.), and be able to do so competently.

2) Amtrak must, in part, rely on their "partner" railroads to be equally knowledgeable and competent on the other 70% of the tracks.

While CSX, in this case, had direct control of the activities that appear to have resulted in the accident, I would assert that both CSX and AMTRAK ultimately have a shared responsible for safe operation.

AMTRAK is, in effect, contracting with CSX for access to those tracks. I work in an industry that relies heavily on contractors working in hazardous contexts. Our industry very actively engages in the review of contractor safety procedures and safety performance in order to ensure that our interests are well-protected.

When there is an incident, the more enlightened companies often recognize this as a joint failure, and a joint responsibility, of the contractor and the contracting company, rather than immediately issuing a self-serving statement assigning full blame to the contractor.

It would be quite interesting to know what sort of proactive liaison there is between AMTRAK and the railroads it contracts with. How confident is AMTRAK that each contract railroad that it relies upon to protect AMTRAK passengers has safety procedures and training that meet AMTRAK's expectations? How frequently is this verified, and how?

It would be gratifying to see more than blame-gaming coming from AMTRAK management.

If Anderson's implication is that CSX cannot be trusted, what is he going to do to better protect AMTRAK passengers in the future?

Three fatal crashes in less than two months... AMTRAK needs to tighten up.
StayingHomeIsBetter is offline  
Old Feb 5, 18, 12:46 pm
  #10  
Moderator, Alaska Airlines & FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: SGF
Programs: AS, AA, UA, AGR (ex-75K, GLD, 1K, and S+), Choice Diamond, HZ PC, Costco Exec, NPS Passport
Posts: 22,928
Originally Posted by StayingHomeIsBetter View Post
Amtrak owns just under 30% of the track that they run on (28% per AMTRAK's website).

This suggest two logical inferences:

1) Amtrak has to know how to properly implement switch changes and signal outages (etc.), and be able to do so competently.

2) Amtrak must, in part, rely on their "partner" railroads to be equally knowledgeable and competent on the other 70% of the tracks.

While CSX, in this case, had direct control of the activities that appear to have resulted in the accident, I would assert that both CSX and AMTRAK ultimately have a shared responsible for safe operation.

AMTRAK is, in effect, contracting with CSX for access to those tracks. I work in an industry that relies heavily on contractors working in hazardous contexts. Our industry very actively engages in the review of contractor safety procedures and safety performance in order to ensure that our interests are well-protected.

When there is an incident, the more enlightened companies often recognize this as a joint failure, and a joint responsibility, of the contractor and the contracting company, rather than immediately issuing a self-serving statement assigning full blame to the contractor.

It would be quite interesting to know what sort of proactive liaison there is between AMTRAK and the railroads it contracts with. How confident is AMTRAK that each contract railroad that it relies upon to protect AMTRAK passengers has safety procedures and training that meet AMTRAK's expectations? How frequently is this verified, and how?

It would be gratifying to see more than blame-gaming coming from AMTRAK management.

If Anderson's implication is that CSX cannot be trusted, what is he going to do to better protect AMTRAK passengers in the future?

Three fatal crashes in less than two months... AMTRAK needs to tighten up.
The fact that Amtrak owns 30% of its track mileage is irrelevant to this discussion. Amtrak owns trackage in the Northeast Corridor, Michican, and a small smattering of other places. The operating division this incident occurred in is completely separate. CSX owned the trackage, CSX sets the operating rules, CSX controls train movements, CSX dispatches the line, and by all accounts, it was the CSX crew that improperly left the switch open. The Amtrak crew was operating in accordance with the instructions of the CSX dispatcher on CSX's track in CSX's territory and suffered as a result of CSX's actions. I fail to see where Amtrak's fault lies anywhere in that--unless you're proposing that Amtrak crews should disregard freight railroad dispatcher instructions and creep along the entire network at restricted speed because they shouldn't trust the FRA-regulated railroads to do what their rules (approved by the FRA) say they should do.

Of course Amtrak has entire departments of people who liaise with the host railroads and negotiate the trackage rights and comb through all of the safety regulations and make sure both sides are in agreement. But ultimately, we're dealing mostly with behemoth Class I railroads who are strictly regulated and overseen by the federal government and have (mostly) proven themselves to run safety-conscious operations over tens of thousands of miles of track every day, not random small-time contractors who are looking to cut a corner somewhere that have to be whipped into shape by your organization. There's nearly two centuries of history in the railroad industry filled with precedents for how the railroads share their infrastructure, so the fact that you "assert" they should have joint responsibility is completely immaterial to the discussion. The written agreements for trackage rights and insurance indemnifications and all that, not to mention 191 years of railroad history and probably thousands of court cases that have formed case law on this matter, will govern how responsibility is set.

If the Amtrak crew had any fault, such as exceeding a speed restriction or running past their track authority, I'm sure it will come out in the NTSB report, at which point you are welcome to assign proportional blame to them.
jackal is offline  
Old Feb 5, 18, 1:40 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,576
Hopefully, the NTSB will look into whether the cost saving measures implemented by the late CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison, may caused short cuts to be taken, and accordingly might have contributed to this avoidable accident.
SCEflyer is offline  
Old Feb 5, 18, 2:36 pm
  #12  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Programs: DL 1 million, AA 1 mil, HH lapsed Diamond, Marriott Plat
Posts: 28,192
Originally Posted by mapleg View Post
I wonder if India has a better rail safety record than the US (per passenger mile).
You may struggle to find data.

In 2010 - the focus of this work - the U.S rail network had a lower rate of fatalities per billion passenger kilometers than Europe, let alone India.

Reason & Rail: US and European rail safety
3Cforme is offline  
Old Feb 5, 18, 6:00 pm
  #13  
Moderator, Alaska Airlines & FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: SGF
Programs: AS, AA, UA, AGR (ex-75K, GLD, 1K, and S+), Choice Diamond, HZ PC, Costco Exec, NPS Passport
Posts: 22,928
From https://csanders429.wordpress.com/20...th-csx-train/:

The train was traveling at 56 miles per hour at that point, which was slightly slower than the 59 mph top speed allowed at that location.
That seems to confirm my previous recollection that the maximum passenger speed in dark territory is 59mph and my guess that the Amtrak engineer was not exceeding any speed restrictions.
jackal is offline  
Old Feb 5, 18, 7:32 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 76
Exclamation

Take a look this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...2%80%93present)

Fatalities are low in US train accidents. I think it's about:
1. More freight trains.
2. Few passengers in the train.
3. Snail speed.

Originally Posted by 3Cforme View Post
You may struggle to find data.

In 2010 - the focus of this work - the U.S rail network had a lower rate of fatalities per billion passenger kilometers than Europe, let alone India.

Reason & Rail: US and European rail safety
Java Titan is offline  
Old Feb 6, 18, 7:05 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: DTW/FNT
Programs: Delta (nee NW), Hilton Diamond. IHG (PT)
Posts: 4,806
Originally Posted by jackal View Post
The fact that Amtrak owns 30% of its track mileage is irrelevant to this discussion. Amtrak owns trackage in the Northeast Corridor, Michigan, and a small smattering of other places.
Shouldn't the percent of the track miles Amtrak covers and actually owns be more like 3 percent?

Bob H
BobH is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: