Amtrak Derailment: How Technology Is Aiding Crash Investigation

16 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amtrak Derailment: How Technology Is Aiding Crash Investigation.

A range of technologies, from 3D laser scans of train cars to video and data recordings, is aiding an investigation into the cause of a devastating Amtrak train derailment that occurred in Philadelphia earlier this week.

The train track safety technology that is not yet operational in Philadelphia and may have been able to prevent the deadly derailment there on Tuesday is in use only along some of New Jersey’s intercity, commuter and freight tracks.PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thursday at the scene of the Amtrak tragedy, the company’s CEO made a commitment to make travel on the Northeast Corridor safer for millions of riders.– Some transportation experts are saying this week’s fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia could have been prevented using a system called Positive Train Control. “This technology has been around for 20 years.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the accident, which killed eight people and injured more than 200 others, according to news reports. The systems are designed to stop trains automatically, if needed, to prevent train-to-train collisions, work zone accidents and excessive speeding incidents such as the Amtrak derailment that killed eight Tuesday. Despite the deadline signed into law by President Bush, most owners of rail lines will not meet it – including NJ Transit — although not for lack of spending or effort, they say. “We are committed to getting this done,” said Edward R. But freight lines here Amtrak and Metra use are far from implementing the system, which would use GPS and ground rail sensors to determine if the system should override the actions of the train’s engineer and stop the train.

The NTSB was able to use video from the train’s track-image recorder to reconstruct a timeline of the train’s speed. [How Safe Is Train Travel?] At 65 seconds before the end of the video, the train’s speed went above 70 mph (113 km/h). Metra said it needs several more years to complete its installation, and most of the rest of the nation’s railroads have said they need more time, too.

Despite pressure from safety regulators and a looming deadline from Congress to install PTC, Amtrak had not finished the work on the new system along the section of track that turned deadly Tuesday. “We had to change a lot of things on the corridor to make it work and we’re very close to being ready to cut it in. In Amtrak’s case, the technology uses a series of transponders along tracks and onboard computers to send and receive data about its passenger trains. A few seconds into the turn, the train appeared to tilt 10 degrees to the right, then the recording went blank, NTSB spokesman Robert Sumwalt said in a news briefing yesterday (May 14). As part of his or her qualification, a train engineer must learn the permanent speed restrictions along a particular route, although there are no speed-limit signs along the track, except for temporary speed restrictions, Sumwalt said. But the software — which at the same time must be compatible nationwide and know the specifics of the line being traveled — is still in the works.

Gillis said Metra locomotives are currently equipped with an “overspeed” alarm that tells when a train is exceeding the 79 mph speed that is the maximum allowed on area commuter lines. However, the alarm would not — for instance — slow down a train that is rounding a 30 mph curve at 60 mph, or halt a train that has missed a red signal.

Experts have said that if PTC works as intended, it can avert accidents of the type that occurred on the Metra Rock Island District at 49th Street in 2003 and 2005. Amtrak, which has spent $110.7 million on the system since 2008, said it will complete its system along its Northeast Corridor by the December deadline. Ironically, the installation of PTC is further along than most on the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor, the nation’s only true high-speed rail corridor, but it is not completed on the 50 mph curve in Philadelphia where the derailment occurred. Among train operators that are members of the association, Hamburger said, about 50 percent of locomotives and 56 percent of track units have been outfitted with the technology. One of the oldest safety features of trains is the so-called “dead man’s switch,” a control (such as a foot petal) that is activated automatically to stop the vehicle if the human operator loses control, such as in the event of death or loss of consciousness.

Even when all the hardware and software have been installed, Hamburger said, operators will need to tweak their systems so one train system will be able to operate seamlessly on another’s track. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. The association supports a bill that passed the senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in March to extend the deadline by five years, he said. In an online train forum, a commenter The Times said was Bostian criticized railroads for failing to be more proactive in adopting rail safety measures.

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