Derailed Train in Philadelphia Lacked Automatic Controls

May 13, 2015  - By
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Image: GPS World

An automatic train control system — many of which use GPS — was not installed on the commuter rail route where an Amtrak train left the track on Tuesday, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The advanced safety technology, known as positive train control, is designed to prevent high-speed derailments.

Seven people were killed and more than 200 injured when Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 with seven cars derailed while rounding a curve at more than double the 50-mph speed limit.

An Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) was due to be installed on the route before the end of the year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation describes these methods of positive train control, most of which use GPS:

  • ACSES (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System). A transponder-based system, in use on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor originally put into use on the Northeast Corridor by the specific requirements of an Order of Particular Applicability. This type of positive train control system has been approved and certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
  • ETMS (Electronic Train Management System). A GPS- and communications-based system being deployed by BNSF Railway.
  • I-ETMS (formerly called Vital Electronic Train Management System). A GPS- and communications-based system, not yet ready for deployment. It is the system of choice for CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad. BNSF Railway is to upgrade to it when software is available; various passenger/commuter and other railroads are adopting it for compatibility and interoperability.
  • ITCS (Incremental Train Control System). A GPS- and communications-based system used by Amtrak on its Michigan line, authorized for passenger train speeds up to 110 mph, originally put into use by the specific requirements of an FRA-approved waiver. ITCS certification through Amtrak’s request for expedited certification process is pending successful resolution of a few remaining issues before FRA approval for certification.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandates that positive train control be implemented across a significant portion of the nation’s rail industry by Dec. 31, 2015.

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1 Comment on "Derailed Train in Philadelphia Lacked Automatic Controls"

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  1. Steve says:

    The headline is incorrect, I think. The train had automatic controls. The track didn’t have supporting infrastructure, so those controls couldn’t be used.

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