Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak Cascades’

Empire Builder Affected by Mudslides, Too

February 6, 2018

Amtrak’s Empire Builder is also affected by mudslides that have temporarily halted Cascade Service to Vancouver, Washington.

The mudslide occurred Sunday morning near White Rock, British Columbia. In a service advisory, Amtrak said that it is using chartered buses to move passengers in place of its trains in the affected areas north of Seattle.

Service south of Seattle remains unaffected. All trains are expected to resume operating north of Seattle later today.


Mudslides Again Halt Cascades Service

February 5, 2018

Amtrak Cascade Service to Vancouver, British Columbia, was disrupted on Sunday morning by mudslides near White Rock, British Columbia.

Although BNSF reopened the route for freight traffic on Sunday afternoon, it requires a 48-hour window before passenger service can resume after a mudslide.

Service is slated to resume on Tuesday between Vancouver and Bellington, Washington. It was the second time that mudslide interrupted Cascade Service north of Seattle in the past week.

An earlier mudslide halted service between Jan. 29 and 31.

Amtrak Employees Say Training Was Inadequate

January 30, 2018

Cable news channel CNN has reported that some Amtrak engineers and conductors raised concerns about the lack of adequate training before the passenger carrier launched revenue service on a new route in Washington state last month.

The report said that during practice runs some trainees rode backward, which prevented them from seeing landmarks that they could use to identify locations where they would need to reduce speed.

The training runs were also conducted at night, the employees said, because construction workers were rushing to finish work on the Point Defiance bypass during the day.

The news broke in the wake of a Dec. 18 derailment near DePont, Washington, of a Portland-bound Cascades train in which three passengers were killed.

The derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service on the Point Defiance bypass via Tacoma, Washington.

A preliminary National Transportation Board report has indicated that the train was traveling twice the speed limit that it should have been going into a 30-mph curve.

Other news outlets also have reported that some Amtrak employees have said the carrier lacks a good safety culture and that they did not receive enough training on the new route.

A former Amtrak conductor described the safety culture as virtually non-existent.

“If you talk about safety to your manager you’re punished,” said Michael Callanan, who worked at Amtrak for nine years and is now a railroad safety consultant. He said the lack of training at Amtrak has been going on for as long as he can remember.

Callanan said conductors should do at least three to five roundtrip runs of the route to become familiar with it and those trips need to be done during daylight hours.

The NTSB has said that the engineer of the train that derailed did not feel that he had enough training on the new route. The agency has said it will examine the training that Amtrak employees received as part of its investigation.

Amtrak has not responded to new media requests to comment on its training and safety programs.


Mudlsides Close Cascade Route in Washington

January 30, 2018

Due to a mudslide, Amtrak Cascades Service between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Bellingham, Washington, has been suspended until Wednesday afternoon.

Amtrak says BNSF has closed a track on the route, but expects it to reopen by 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday.

Passengers will ride chartered buses to stations affects by the track closure. Train service south of Bellingham to Seattle is unaffected.

Cascades Engineer Missed Speed Warning Sign

January 27, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board said this week that the engineer of the Amtrak Cascades train that derailed in Washington State last month, killing three passengers, told investigators that he missed seeing a speed-limit sign along the track shortly before the train derailed.

The 55-year-old engineer remembered that the Portland-bound train was traveling 70 mph as it passed milepost 15.5. He said he was aware of an upcoming curve with a 30 mph speed restriction was at milepost 19.8 and planned to apply the brakes about a mile in advance.

However, the engineer said he did not see mileposts 16, 17 or 18 or a sign warning of the 30 mph zone, which is posted two miles before the curve.

In his interview, the engineer said he saw a block signal at milepost 19.8 — at the accident curve — but thought it a signal that is located north of the curve.

Upon seeing the 30 mph sign at the beginning of the curve, the engineer said he applied the brakes. Seconds later the train left the tracks on the curve.

Other points made by the engineer was that he didn’t feel that having a qualifying conductor in the locomotive with him was a distraction, that he had no reservations about his readiness to operate the train and that he felt rested when the trip began.

The train had locomotives on each end, 10 passenger cars and a baggage car. Investigators have said the train was doing 78 mph when it derailed on a bridge over Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington.

Two passengers cars landed on the interstate highway during the crash. There were 83 people on board the train with 62 of them suffering injuries. Eight people in vehicles on the highway were injured.

The conductor was in the lead locomotive to learn the route, which was being operated by Amtrak in revenue service for the first time on the day of the derailment.

He told investigators the engineer appeared alert during a job briefing and while operating the train. The NTSB investigation is expected to last 12 to 24 months.

Amtrak Wants Cascade Route PTC Turned On ASAP

January 15, 2018

Amtrak has told the departments of transportation in Oregon and Washington that that it wants positive train control tested and implemented on the Seattle-Portland route “as soon as possible.”

During a legislative hearing in Washington state last week, Amtrak Senior Government Affairs Manager Rob Eaton said sensors and radio links trackside, on locomotives and on a central server still need to be integrated.

“The testing and interaction of all three of these elements will take place during the second and third quarters of the year, after which PTC will be placed into operation,” he said.

Many believe that had PTC been in operation that derailment of a southbound Cascades Service train could have been avoided.

Three passengers died in the wreck, which authority had linked to the train going 78 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone near Olympia, Washington.

The train was traveling on the first day of revenue service on the Point Defiance bypass route.

Eaton said implementing PTC is complicated by the fact that three different railroads own sections of the route, including BNSF, Union Pacific and Sound Transit.

During the hearing Amtrak officials said PTC is not in operation on any Amtrak route west of the Mississippi River.

Washington state Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar testified that there was not undue pressure to launch high speed rail service before Amtrak locomotive engineers and crews had become qualified on the Point Defiance Bypass route.

“There was no deadline for initiating service,” Millar said, but did say there had been deadlines for completing construction on track and signal upgrades

Millar said those were not a factor in the December derailment.

NTSB Issues Preliminary Cascade Accident Report

January 5, 2018

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board avoids seeking to pin point the cause of the Dec. 18 Amtrak derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three passengers dead and 62 crew members and passengers injured.

The Board expects its investigation to take at least a year.

The report said that investigators have not yet been able to interview the engineer or conductor involved in the derailment due to their injuries.

Other information in the preliminary report indicates that not only was the train speeding at the time of the derailment, but the train, Cascades Service No. 501 from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, did not slow prior to the accident.

The train was traveling 78 mph at the time of the derailment in a zone where the top speed was 30 mph.

The report said the authorized track speed north of the accident site is 79 mph and decreases to 30 mph before a curve over Interstate 5.

A 30 mph speed sign was posted 2 miles before the curve on the engineer’s side of the track. Another 30 mph sign was on the wayside at the start of the curve on the engineer’s side.

About six seconds before the accident, the locomotive engineer commented on an over speed condition to an Amtrak conductor who was also in the cab learning the route.

The NTSB said inward facing cameras showed that neither crew member was observed using personal electronic devices in the cab.

The derailment caused $40.4 million in damage. Aside from those injured aboard the train, eight people in vehicles on Interstate 5 were injured when train cars landed on the highway after going off a bridge.

The train had a leading and trailing locomotive, a power car, 10 passenger cars and a luggage car.

A positive train control system was not in operation on the route at the time of the accident.

“In this accident, PTC would have notified the engineer of train 501 about the speed reduction for the curve; if the engineer did not take appropriate action to control the train’s speed, PTC would have applied the train brakes to maintain compliance with the speed restriction and to stop the train,” the report states.

The 55-year-old engineer had worked for Amtrak since May 2004 and had been promoted to engineer in August 2013. The 48-year-old qualifying conductor had been working for Amtrak since June 2010.

Pacific Northwest Schedules Modified

January 2, 2018

Amtrak has modified schedules in the Pacific Northwest until further notice.

In service advisory Amtrak said that daily Cascades round-trips are being provided between Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Two additional roundtrips that had been scheduled to go into service on Dec. 18, 2017, have been canceled indefinitely due to lack of equipment.

One Talgo trainset was sidelined after a Dec. 18 derailment while another set has been out of service since a derailment last July.

Cascades service between Portland and Eugene and Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia are unchanged from the schedule that went into effect on Dec. 18, 2017. In addition to these schedules, the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Startlight will continue to operate to all scheduled stations.

Amtrak continues to use its station at 1001 Puyallup Avenue for all trains.

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

December 22, 2017

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.

Anderson Promises to Improve Safety

December 21, 2017

Amtrak co-CEO Richard Anderson has promised to improve safety at the carrier and implement any recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board after it concludes its investigation into a derailment in Washington state that left three dead about 100 injured.

“This is a wakeup call and it is not acceptable to have these types of accidents,” Anderson said during a news conference in Tacoma, Washington.  “We must get to the bottom of this, figure out what happened and make it sure it never happens again.”

Thus far investigations have determined that Amtrak Cascades train No. 501 was traveling more than twice the posted the speed limit moments before it derailed near Olympia on Monday morning.

Investigations are probing if the engineer was distracted just before the crash by the presence of a conductor trainee in the cab.

The train was making the first revenue run on a new route known as the Point Defiance Bypass that is owned by Sounder Transit and had recently been rebuilt.

Thirteen of the 14 cars on the train left the tracks on a curve that crosses over Interstate 5. The train was carrying 86 people, including the crew members.

At least five vehicles on the interstate highway was struck by falling train cars, but none of those killed were in those vehicles. On Wednesday night, authorities said 24 people were still hospitalized.

The locomotives and passengers have been removed from the cash site to a nearby military base where the NTSB will continue its investigation.

Amtrak has resumed service between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, using the Point Defiance route.

However, due to equipment shortages, Cascades Service between Eugene, Oregon, and Portland will have substitute equipment.

There will be no food service, checked baggage service, business class or bikes.

Nos. 505 and 508, which were scheduled to operate between Eugene and Seattle, will operate only between Seattle and Portland.

New trains Nos. 515 and 510 will be introduced on the segment between Portland and Eugene with a cross platform connection at Portland for passengers traveling north of there.

These schedules are expected to be in place through at least Jan. 2.