Installation of Positive Train Control & Dangers for Train Commuters

On May 12, a northbound Amtrak train from Washington, D.C. derailed and crashed in Philadelphia, PA at the Frankford Junction curve. 8 people were killed and over 200 were injured in what was the deadliest crash on the Northeast Corridor since 1987, and the second derailment to occur on that section of tracks.

The curve where the accident occurred was not equipped with Position Train Control (PTC) technology. PTC is an automated safety system that automatically slows trains that are traveling above the speed limit. Later sections of the track were already equipped with PTC including the southbound track at the same junction. In 2008, after a devastating and highly fatal train crash in California, Congress required implementation of PTC to prevent future accidents. Congress set the end of 2015 as the deadline to install PTC. However, railroads have failed to meet this mandate.

Recently, President Obama approved a bill with congressional support giving railroads an additional 3 years to install automated safety technology called positive train control (PTC) on 60,000 miles of track. One rationale for the extension is that the technology functions are still being tested and not yet complete.

However, the technology that functions as a safety system of the modern train was largely available nearly 30 years ago, when it was known as ARES. But, due to a lack of industry-wide support, it was discontinued in the one region where ARES was implemented and shelved indefinitely until 2008, when, after the crash in California, Congress required the implementation of train safety technology to prevent future accidents.

The failure to implement PTC is a huge safety concern for railroad passengers nationwide. If PTC had been installed at the Frankford Junction curve northbound, it likely would have prevented the May 12, 2015 derailment. At the moment of derailment, the train was travelling at 106 mph in a 50 mph zone on a curved portion of the track. Federal investigators of the crash reported that an automatic breaking system, used to stop speeding trains, would have forced the train to decelerate and prevented derailment.

Amtrak management was allegedly altogether unaware that the northbound side of Frankford Junction curve in Philadelphia lacked the speed-control mechanism, and cited a monetary shortfall that prevented them from installing PTC.

Morelli Law Firm represents some of the most seriously injured survivors of the 2015 derailment. If you or a loved one was injured in the recent Amtrak disaster, you have the right to take legal action and to recover money damages. Call (212) 751-9800 to discuss your case with a member of our law firm, or send us a message here.

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