One Year Anniversary of Amtrak Derailment

May 11, 2016

Today is the one year anniversary of the derailment of Amtrak Train 188 at the Frankford Curve in Philadelphia. Sarah Feinberg, the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, called it the "most deadly rail accident we've had in a very long time." We thought we would take a look at some of the changes that have been made since the accident and some of the news that is expected in the next week or so.

Positive Train Control

Positive Train Control (PTC) is an automatic train braking system that slows or stops a train to prevent an accident. Although Congress had set a deadline for implementation, it had not been completed by the time of the accident. Amtrak has since installed it on all railroad track that it owns in the Northeast Corridor but much of the track outside of the Northeast is owned by private freight companies and has still not yet had the system installed. The deadline was pushed by Congress from 2015 to 2018.

Claims Limit Raised

At the time of the accident, Congress had limited the total amount of money that Amtrak could pay out as a result of a crash to $200 million. The maximum damage cap, set in 1997, was exceeded in the 2008 Chatsworth collision of a Union Pacific freight train and a Metrolink commuter train in California. As a result of the Philadelphia crash, Congress increased the damage cap to $295 million as part of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act).

The Lawsuit

Amtrak has settled 19 injury claims as a result of the accident, each for an amount less than $50,000. There are at least another 100 lawsuits against the railroad seeking compensation. Amtrak has said that it would not contest claims for compensatory damages from injuries.

Changes to Scoop and Run Expected

Philadelphia is expected to revise its mass casualty plan next week to ensure that future disasters go more smoothly. Parked police cars restricted the access to the area for ambulances. Police officers were transporting victims to local area hospitals in their patrol cars. This "scoop and carry" policy where officers transport victims to local hospitals in their cars rather than wait for ambulances is credited with reducing the homicide rate in the city.

Investigation Report Next Week

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will meet on Tuesday to determine the probable cause of the Amtrak crash. The NTSB has already released 2,200 pages of interviews, reports and other documents from its investigation.