During a two day hearing with the National Transportation Safety Board, Amtrak’s Vice President of Safety, Justin Meko, discussed the improvements the railroad has made since the deadly accident on February 4th in South Carolina that left two CSX employees dead and 92 Amtrak passengers injured.
According to Mr. Meko, Amtrak has enhanced its safety reviews for construction projects in order to identify risks and mitigate them, requiring employees to stop at switches to ensure they are aligned correctly, rerouting around a signal suspension, and linking rail services with buses. “Those are a few of the mitigations that we’ve applied. We can no longer simply rely on the operating rule book of the host and must instead augment our host operating practices in ways that meaningfully enhance the safety of operations.”
Jason Schroeder, Assistant Chief Engineer for CSX’s Signal and Communication department, said CSX has made several changes following the accident as well. Those changes include providing more crew briefings and reducing the number of times a switch is changed while signals are suspended. “No longer can train crews operate the signal department involvement.” CSX’s new policy requires two employees from two departments to confirm the change when a switch is locked during a signal suspension. Additionally, Matthew Meadows, Director of Operating Rules and Practices for CSX, said “Workers who restore a main track switch must remain until the switch is verbally confirmed. All crew members must release a track to ensure everyone is on the same page. If confusion or a question arises after the authority has been released, the authority requires that they immediately contact the train dispatcher.”
The NTSB is also urging trains to move slower when traveling through construction zones. Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said, “Our purpose for being here is to make sure that things like this don’t happen again.”
Railroads have improved safety since fatal S.C. collision, Amtrak and CSX officials say