“As for what this could mean for Amtrak and Bostian, the railroad has already taken responsibility for the tragedy, and its liability is capped under federal law at $295 million, which could easily be exhausted, given the number of deaths and serious injuries.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is helping the NTSB on the investigation, but a spokesman would not comment on the possibility of criminal charges.
The hearing included a spirited discussion over how much blame to assign to the lack of positive train control. In the end, the NTSB cited that as a secondary factor.
But NTSB chairman Christopher Hart warned that unless the technology is put fully in place soon, “I’m very concerned that we’re going to be back in this room again, hearing investigators detail how technology that we have recommended for more than 45 years could have prevented yet another fatal rail accident.”….
The NTSB has pushed for Positive train control since the 1970s. Over the past 20 years, the board has cited the lack of such technology as a contributing factor in 25 crashes, including deadly wrecks in Chatsworth, California, in 2008 and New York City in 2013.
Amtrak has now installed PTC on all the track it owns on the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington. A 56-mile stretch from New Rochelle, New York, to New Haven, Connecticut, is owned by other railroads and is expected to have automatic controls by the end-of-2018 deadline.
At the time of the Philadelphia crash, the technology had been installed at the accident site but was still being tested.
Before the NTSB voted on its conclusions, T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the board’s vice chairman, strongly urged the panel to put more blame on the lack of Positive train control.
“Eight people have died, dozens more have been injured — life-changing injuries — because the government and industry have not acted for decades on a well-known safety hazard,” Dinh-Zarr said. “I ask: Why does our probable cause focus on a human’s mistake and what he may have been distracted by?”
The investigation also pointed up the need to make passenger trains safer. In the derailment, the train’s emergency windows dislodged as the cars slid on their sides, and four people were ejected and killed, according to investigators.” (Emphasis added in Bold)
The candor of these NTSB Officials is noteworthy. Possible winds of change in the air?