WSDOT Says Point Defiance Bypass Won’t Be Put Back Into Service Until PTC System is Operational

Passenger trains won’t use the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State until positive train control is activated on the line.

The Washington State Department of Transportation made the announcement in the wake of an Amtrak derailment near Olympia, Washington, last Monday that left three dead.

Investigators have said the train was running at 80 miles per house in a 30 mph zone when it derailed.

The accident occurred on the first day of revenue service on the 14.5-mile line, which is owned by Sound Transit.

No timetable has been set for finishing the installation of PTC on the route. Amtrak’s Cascades Service and Coast Starlight trains will use the Point Defiance route, which runs along Puget Sound and also lacks PTC.

In the meantime, the National Transportation Safety Board said the engineer of Cascades Service Train No. 501 began applying the brakes just before the train derailed.

The NTSB said that an initial review of an in-cab camera in the lead unit of train 501 showed that about six seconds before the accident the engineer made a comment regarding an “over speed condition” and began applying the locomotive brakes.

Aside from the engineer, an Amtrak conductor training to work on the route was in the cab of the locomotive.

Neither crew members was using a personal cell phone in the minutes before the derailment and the video showed both bracing for impact in the final frame of the video.

The locomotive’s event recorder showed the train traveling at 78 mph as its final recorded speed.

NTSB officials said the investigation of the accident may take up to two years to complete.

Amtrak will continue to operate its expanded schedule of Cascades Service despite an equipment shortage caused by the derailment.

Even before the derailment occurred, equipment had been in short supply because a Talgo trainset owned by the State or Oregon was out of service for repairs.

A set of Superliner equipment had been sent to the Pacific Northwest to cover one of two daily Seattle-Vancouver, British Columbia, trains.

The Oregon-owned Talgo set was involved in an accident last July 2 and had to be sent to the Talgo factory in Milwaukee for repairs. It is expected to return to service in March 2018.

To meet schedules, Amtrak is now turning all Talgo trainsets at Portland, Oregon, rather than in Eugene, Oregon.

Amfleet equipment has been assigned to trains operated between Eugene and Portland with passengers making connections in Portland for points north.

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