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Railroad Crashes Are Up, and Amtrak Is Up Even More

After a below-average crash rate in 2012, Amtrak trains have wrecked at a steadily higher rate — and are now worse than the national average.

Railroad safety has already become a focal point in the aftermath of Tuesday's Amtrak crash that killed seven people and injured dozens. Accident rates have been decreasing in recent decades, but several deadly incidents in recent years have regulators and the public concerned for passengers' safety.

After a below-average crash rate in 2012, Amtrak trains have wrecked at a steadily higher rate in each of the following years—and are now worse than the national average for all trains and all commuter trains. In the first two months of 2015, Amtrak had 18 accidents—giving it a higher crash rate than all the major nearby Northeast train lines. The data below are a measure of accidents, not fatalities.

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Tuesday's crash is sure to reignite the perennial debate on railroad safety in the U.S. with aging infrastructure and increasing severe weather contributing to these problems.

Train accidents on Amtrak doubled at the beginning of the year, compared with the same period the year previous, according to CNBC's analysis of data from the Federal Railroad Administration. Amtrak's trains were in 3.25 accidents for every million miles traveled, higher than the average 2.6 for all railroads.

Overall accident rates have been decreasing steadily over the past few years but rose in 2015.

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The train was traveling in excess of 100 mph, twice the limit in that area of track, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

Weather too can play an important role in railroad safety. A report from the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center estimated that $183 million in damage was caused by weather-related accidents between 1995 and 2005.

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— with Mark Fahey