The National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) announced Oct. 12 that it ruled that a collision between a pair of Union Pacific trains in Texarkana, Texas, in September 2015 was probably caused by crewmembers who did not respond to wayside signal indicators because they had fallen asleep.
The board also said that the lack of a functioning positive train control was a contributing factor in the collision.
At 12:34 a.m. Sept. 8, 2015, when a westbound UP engine on the Pine Bluff Subdivision struck a northbound UP train that was traveling on the Little Rock Subdivision, the board said.
Data from the locomotive event recorder of the striking train showed that the train slowed from 19 to 6 mph after the engineer applied the emergency brakes, the board said.
The engineer and conductor of the westbound train were treated for minor injuries, and there were no injuries to the crew of the northbound train, the board said.
Both of the westbound train’s locomotives derailed, spilling 4,000 of diesel fuel, while seven cars of the train that was struck left the tracks, the board said.
The NTSB said damage to the trains was estimated at $4.66 million.
The board also announced Oct. 17 that it was to convene Nov. 14 to determine probable cause of a collision that happened April 3, 2016, between an Amtrak train and a backhoe that killed a pair of rail workers who were repairing track ballast in Chester, Pa.
A total of 41 passengers were taken to the hospital after the collision, the board’s preliminary report said.

Jan. 3 – SMART Transportation Division submitted comments protesting in-cab distractions to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FRA recently issued a public notice in docket FRA 2016-0002-N-22, allowing for comments to be made on in-cab distractions.

“We have been concerned about the increase of in-cab distractions for some time and have submitted letters and comments to the FRA with our concerns. Two examples are Trip Optimizer and Leader, which are computer-generated devices located in locomotive cabs that are allegedly being used to save fuel,” SMART TD’s National Legislative Director John Risch said in the comments.
“In addition, PTC implementation is causing greater cab distractions than we had hoped it would. Instead of the PTC system simply stopping trains when necessary, they are constantly messaging the engineer to take some minor corrective action and requiring the engineer to interact immediately, which takes the crews’ focus off the track ahead and on the cab electronic device.”

Click here to read the full comments made by SMART TD to the FRA. reported that federal regulators are concerned about the lack of progress from NYC commuter rail in implementing potentially lifesaving Positive Train Control (PTC) technology.  “The nation’s three busiest commuter railroads — which together serve nearly 1 million riders in the New York City area each day — continue to lag behind their smaller West Coast counterparts in installing sophisticated train-control technology that’s seen as an antidote to crashes involving speeding and other human factors…” Read the complete article here.

In light of the deadly NJT September 29th transit crash in Hoboken, NJ, that killed one person and injured more than 100, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate subcommittee that oversees passenger rail safety, and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate mass transit subcommittee, submitted a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx , calling for DOT to investigate the long list of safety violations, accidents and apparent systemic failures that have plagued the  NJT in recent years. The NTSB is currently investigation the crash. Read the complete article posted in, here.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began the task of gathering evidence to determine the cause of yesterday morning’s deadly New Jersey Transit crash that injured 114 and killed a woman who was standing on the platform at the busy hub in Hoboken, New Jersey. According to a CNN report, NTSB officials have retrieved the train’s event recorder and will soon interview engineer Thomas Gallagher, who was treated and released from the hospital yesterday. The sharp increase in railway accidents underscores the need to hasten implementation of  Positive Train Control (PTC) systems and mandated two-person crews on all trains.  Read the latest article from CNN, here. 
Photo courtesy of

NTSB_logoThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a board meeting (webcasted live) yesterday, detailing the probable cause of the May 2015 Amtrak train 188 derailment outside of Philadelphia.
The derailment caused eight people to lose their lives and over 200 injuries. The NTSB found that “the probable cause of the accident was the engineer’s acceleration to 106 miles per hour as he entered a curve with a 50 mile per hour speed restriction, due to his loss of situational awareness likely because his attention was diverted to an emergency situation with another train. Contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control (PTC) system. Contributing to the severity of the injuries was the inadequate requirements for occupant protection in the event of a train overturning.”
The NTSB also made numerous recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Amtrak, American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Association of American Railroads (AAR), Philadelphia first responders, Philadelphia’s mayor and National first responders organizations based on the accident and their findings.
The NTSB recommended to the FRA that they consider requiring railroads to install procedures where no PTC is present; modify existing regulations to include the number of crewmembers required in the cab of the locomotive and use the data regarding the number of crewmembers in the controlling cab of the train at the time of an accident to evaluate safety adequacy of current crew size regulations; and conduct research to evaluate the causes of passenger injuries and evaluate methods for mitigating those injuries such as the use of seat belts and implement any findings.
The NTSB recommended to Amtrak that they incorporate training strategies for operating crewmembers and new hires to recognize and effectively manage multiple concurrent tasks in prolonged, atypical situations.
Click here to read a summary of the NTSB’s findings.
Click here to read NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart’s opening statement.
Click here to read the presentation given by the NTSB.
Click here to read Hart’s closing statement.
Click here to view the webcast.

Amtrak Logo The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Amtrak activated its Positive Train Control system (PTC) this past weekend from Philadelphia to Washington. SEPTA has reported they are not far behind and will have PTC online sometime in the new year.

Since the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) mandated in 2008 that all railroads operating in the U.S.install PTC by Dec. 31, 2015, Amtrak, SEPTA and a few other railroads have been working to install the system by the original deadline. However, Amtrak and SEPTA are in the minority. Most railroads have delayed the installation of this long-overdue safety technology.

SEPTA_logo When it became clear that most railroads would not meet the 2015 deadline, congress was forced to extend the deadline to Dec. 31, 2018, or face massive railroad shutdowns across the country.

PTC technology is designed to stop or slow-down a speeding train and is expected to bring an element of safety to the railroads previously unheard of. It is speculated that if the technology had been operational during the Amtrak crash near Philadelphia earlier this year, then the derailment possibly would not have happened.

Despite this accident and others, the railroads have drug their feet in having the technology installed, claiming they have not had enough time to install the system, make it operational and that the cost of the technology is too high. The Northeast Corridor is now one of the few areas where PTC is operational in the United States.

Read more from


The nation’s rail safety chief told a group of railroad officials she expects them to complete a long-delayed collision-avoidance system by the end of 2018 and to not count on Congress to give them an additional reprieve.

Recent legislation approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama gives them a three-year extension to complete positive train control, though with some wiggle room to seek an additional two years if necessary.

Read more from Bellingham Herald

WASHINGTON — In 1981, while traveling on a corporate jet, Richard M. Bressler, the chairman of the Burlington Northern Railroad, hit on an idea: What if the technology used by airlines to track the location of planes and help prevent accidents was applied to the rail industry?

Mr. Bressler, an engineer by training and a former airline executive, directed a small group of his employees to come up with a similar system for the railroads.

The result was a safety system called the Advanced Railroad Electronics System, or ARES, which was soon placed on several trains on a section of track in Minnesota. The system, among other safety features, allowed dispatchers to stop trains automatically if the engineer exceeded speed limits.

Read more from the New York Times.


The U.S. Senate yesterday passed a short-term surface transportation funding extension that includes a long-term extension of the positive train control (PTC) implementation deadline. The Senate’s action followed the House’s approval of the bill on Tuesday, and President Obama is expected to sign it.

The legislation reauthorizes funding of transportation programs through Nov. 20, and pushes back the Dec. 31 deadline for railroads to install PTC safety technology to Dec. 31, 2018, and as late as 2020 under certain circumstances.

The deadline extension will ward off a nationwide shutdown of railroad services, which industry leaders said would occur after Jan. 1, 2016, if the deadline wasn’t postponed. Most railroads would have missed the Dec. 31 deadline, and many indicated they wouldn’t operate in violation of federal law.

Read more from Progressive Railroading about PTC extension and Sarah Feinberg’s confirmation as administrator to the FRA.