There have been three Amtrak train crashes in the past two months which included several fatalities, leaving some Point Loma Nazarene University students anxious about their only form of transportation to home.
The series of crashes began December 18 when a train traveling from Seattle to Portland derailed in Tacoma, Washington due to an excessively high speed coming around a bend. There were three fatalities and hundreds of people injured.
The second train crashed into a semi-truck in Virginia January 31. The train was traveling from Washington carrying Republican congressmen to their retreat in West Virginia. Everybody on board the train survived but one of the three passengers in the truck died.
In an email to The Point, Spokesman for Amtrak Government Affairs & Corporate Communications Marc Magliari, stated “We will continue pressing U.S. policy makers to adequately fund the Federal Rail Crossing Grant Program to reduce the 2,000+ annual railroad crossing incidents and 200+ railroad crossing deaths in the U.S. Amtrak is a sponsor of a railroad industry safety campaign known as Operation Lifesaver.” Operation LiveSaver is a volunteer based organization that teaches people proper railroad safety.
The most recent crash resulted in two fatalities and over 100 injured passengers when a train from New York to Miami traveled on to the wrong track crashed into a stationary freight train in South Carolina, February 14.
Several PLNU students rely on Amtrak trains to commute to home on the weekends or for holidays. The majority are freshmen students who do not have cars on campus. Sophia Malak is one of these freshmen who uses the train to get to home near Los Angeles. “Taking the train can already be nerve-wrecking. With the recent crashes it is a little scarier and my parents are also concerned for my safety as well,” said Malak.
Amtrak is taking several steps to ensure the safety of their passengers and staff. Ken Hylander was named as the new Executive Vice President and Safety Officer for Amtrak January 9. Hylander was previously the Chief Safety officer at Delta Airlines and served as a Chairman of the Flight Safety Foundation. “Ken is a recognized leader in the implementation and operation of SMS, and his experience will be instrumental in helping build our safety culture,” said Amtrak’s CEO and President, Richard Anderson on Amtrak’s website. The company is trying to model the consistency and accuracy of aviation.
Amtrak is also implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), a technology that matches railroad conditions with train speed for safety measures and can prevent train to train collisions. PTC works by automatically stopping the train before any collision can take place. PTC has been implemented mostly on east coast and midwest trains. Amtrak has made a promise to implement PTC on 310 trains by or before December 31, 2018. This includes host trains like the Pacific Surfliner that leaves from San Diego.