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Federal Railroad Administration Orders Amtrak to Improve Safety

The Federal Railroad Administration ordered Amtrak to take measures to improve safety along its Northeast Corridor, where the train derailed Tuesday.
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The Federal Railroad Administration ordered Amtrak to take immediate measures Saturday to improve safety along its Northeast Corridor, where a train derailed Tuesday night in north Philadelphia and killed eight people.

"We are continuing to work with the NTSB to understand exactly what happened on Tuesday so we can prevent this type of devastating accident from ever happening again," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement released by the rail agency. "While we do not yet know everything that happened, we do know — without question — that protecting rail passengers is our top priority."

The three orders issued by the Federal Rail Administration all concern speed, particularly around curved tracks. Federal investigators say Amtrak Train 188 was hurtling at 106 mph as it traveled on a sharp curve — more than twice the speed limit for that section of track — and derailed.

The federal agency said Saturday that Amtrak must use automatic train control technology for all trains near the derailment site, which detects when a train is traveling above the speed limit and sends a signal to the engineer. If the train isn't manually slowed down, the automatic train control applies the train's brakes.

Amtrak has also been ordered to assess the risk on all curves along the Northeast Corridor and determine whether anything more can be done to improve safety in those areas, including implementing technology to "prevent over-speed derailments" immediately, the statement said.

Finally, more speed limit signs need to be put up for engineers and conductors. "Increasing the amount and frequency of signage provides a redundant means to remind engineers and conductors of the authorized speed," according to the statement.

The federal agency's orders come on the same day Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman issued a message calling the derailment a "terrible tragedy."

"Although our current focus is on the passengers and employees affected by this incident and the resulting service disruption along the Northeast Corridor, we must also take time to learn from this event," Boardman said.


— Elizabeth Chuck