The recent Amtrak rail accident in Washington highlights the need to scrutinize the safety oversight throughout the planning, development, and operation of new railway systems.
In Our Backyard
Commuter rail line development is on the upswing across the country. Most notably, express rail lines that move between population centers at high speeds. We have a commuter railway in the planning phase in our backyard. Commuter rail service may start as early as 2020 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
- Lack of positive train control: A federal requirement for this safety switch goes into effect in 2018.
- Excessive Train speed: Excessive speed has been a factor in recent fatal accidents in Pennsylvania, New York, and now Washington.
- Failure to maintain tracks: Many commuter rail lines utilize parts of freight line tracks in their routes, and sections are outdated and in disrepair.
Collectively, these rail safety concerns provide the ideal conditions for a horrible train accident. Trains are traveling on compromised tracks at speeds higher than the limit because they do not have positive train control to curb their velocity.
One possible remedy for so many rail accidents is stronger federal regulation. Another solution is greater involvement by the community in the planning of commuter rail that travels through their neighborhoods. Relevant testing for passenger trains that operate on freight lines could be another accident reduction strategy.
Passengers on trains, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to safety infractions and the resulting accidents for too long. Attention to the safety of rail passengers, especially on commuter express trains, needs to be a priority.