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Train speed kills, so does Congress delay


Three people were killed and dozens injured last week in a horrific Amtrak derailment near Seattle — an accident that might have been prevented by a safety system that Congress mandated nine years ago. Making this all the more tragic, the automatic-braking system was installed on the tracks and on the train, but it was not yet operating.

Seconds before the crash, the locomotive was tilting as it headed at 80 mph into a curve posted at 30 mph, and the engineer appeared to be applying the brakes, investigators said Friday. But like the Titanic, Amtrak’s Cascades 501 would never complete its inaugural passenger-carrying run along a new bypass route.

While the official cause of the accident has not been determined, it’s not much of a stretch to think that the train’s speed — nearly three times the limit — contributed to what happened. Or that automatic braking, designed to handle just this sort of circumstance, might have prevented cars from flying off the tracks.

How many more lives will be lost before the safety system — known as “positive train control” — will be operating on all passenger, commuter and freight railroads? Safety watchdogs have been pushing for some type of automatic braking system since 1969, the year of the moon landing.  Read More

Related news: What to Know About the Deadly Amtrak Derailment.  Read More