Posts Tagged ‘Cascades 501’

Some Talgo Equipment to be Removed From Cascades

May 27, 2019

In the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board report on the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train, the Washington State Department of Transportation said it will remove Talgo Series 6 trainsets from service “as soon as possible.”

In a statement, WSDOT said it is working with Amtrak to determine the timing of the equipment removal and equipment replacement.

The NTSB recommended that the Talgo Series 6 equipment be removed from service due to safety issues.

WSDOT said it had planned to remove that equipment from service in the mid 2020s, but the NTSB report has advanced that timetable.

Talgo equipment is used in Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia. WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation fund that service, which is operated by Amtrak.

In its report about the Dec. 18, 2017, derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three dead, the NTSB determined that the wheels of the Spanish-built trains became detached during the derailment.

NTSB Investigators described them as “projectiles” that crushed passenger car compartments and highway vehicles.

“Had the rolling assembly not detached we may not have had fatal injuries,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The derailment occurred on a 30-mph curve. Train 501 was en route to Portland, Oregon, from Seattle and entered the curve traveling 78 mph.

It was the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass, which is owned in part by commuter agency Sound Transit.

The NTSB said the lightweight design of the Talgo trains was a factor in the severity of the crash.

Manufacturer Talgo has contended that its equipment is safe and performed as expected.

In announcing the conclusions of its accident investigation report, one NTSB member noted that the Talgo Series 6 equipment was “grandfathered” into safety standards of the Federal Railroad Administration because the equipment couldn’t meet updated crashworthiness standards.

The state of Washington owns two Series 6 trainsets and Amtrak owns two others. Oregon owns two Series 8 Talgo sets.

WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin said the agency will be challenged to find funding to buy new equipment.

However, WSDOT is part of a multi-state compact that is acquiring new single-level cars for use on corridor routes operated by Amtrak.

Matkin noted that her agency is seeking federal funds to purchase new equipment and is awaiting a decision by the FRA on those grant applications.

WSDOT has thus far not taken Talgo up on an offer of 31 cars that would make up two or three trainsets depending on capacity, said Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend.

Friend said the Series 8 cars were offered to WSDOT at less than that list price. The cars are new, but had originally been built for service in Wisconsin before Gov. Scott Walker canceled a planned rail expansion project.

Friend said Talgo 6 cars have a usable life of 30 years. The Series 6 cars owned by WSDOT and Amtrak are 21 years old and some Series 6 equipment is older and still in operation all over the world.

Sound Transit, which came in for criticism in the NTSB report, said it will hire an outside consultant to review the agency’s safety procedures.

“I completely agree with the NTSB that we have a confusing and troubling regulatory regime here where four different agencies plus BNSF have a very convoluted distribution of roles and responsibilities,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

The NTSB had recommended that Sounder Transit undertake a review of its safety certification process “top to bottom, when it comes to our role as a track owner.”

Although Sound owns the track where the Cascades 501 derailment occurred, it doesn’t plan to operate rail service there.

“It was our responsibility to not only determine safety protocols but to oversee that Amtrak implemented all of them,” Rogoff said. “That clearly didn’t happen when it comes to whether Amtrak included curve safety protocols in the general orders to its crews, or verifying the level of training Amtrak provided to its train crews.

Amtrak has yet to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass, which it sought as an alternative to the BNSF route it now uses between Tacoma, Washington, and Portland.

Neither Amtrak, WSDOT, nor Sound Transit have said when Amtrak’s Cascades and Coast Starlight might begin using the Point Defiance route.

WSDOT spokeswoman Matkin said her agency needs time to review the NTSB report in detail.

The agency has said previously it would not permit passenger service to resume on the Point Defiance Bypass until the NTSB report is released and installation of a positive train control system is completed.

The NTSB report said the engineer on Amtrak Cascades 501 said he missed the first trackside sign that a curve was ahead. The report said the engineer’s lack of familiarity with the route played a role in the derailment.

NTSB Releases Cascades 501 Accident Report

May 27, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board last week released it long-awaited report on the derailment of Amtrak Cascades Service No. 501 in December 2017 and zeroed in the failure of Central Puget Sound Transit Authority to mitigate the hazards of a curve on the Point Defiance Bypass.

No. 501 entered the 30 mph curve traveling 78 mph. The resulting derailment killed three passengers aboard the train and injured 57 others. Eight people were injured after some cars fell on motor vehicles on Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington.

The derailment occurred on the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass.

By law, the NTSB is required to issue a single “probable cause” at the conclusion of its investigations, but the agency made 53 specific findings and listed 26 recommendations.

The NTSB recommendations were addressed to numerous agencies, including the U.S. departments of transportation and defense, Amtrak, Washington State and Sound Transit.

The report also singled out the safety of the Talgo Series 6 equipment used by Cascades Service trains.

It also noted that the locomotive engineer was distracted by the overspeed alerts due to his confusion about the bells and alarms and screens since he hadn’t seen those alerts during regular training.

The NTSB recommended that locomotive engineers receive more simulator training.

The report also noted that the conductor sitting in the cab was too passive, acting more like an observer than an active member of the crew.

During a five-hour hearing to announce the findings of the report NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt emphasized the need to focus on preventing wrecks rather than surviving them.

In particular, he spoke about repeated delays to implementing positive train control systems on routes used by passenger trains.

“Today’s new and reiterated and reclassified recommendations, if acted upon, will make rail transportation safer for passengers and train crews,” Sumwalt said “But they will require action by several parties, including the Federal Railroad Administration. The repeated postponement of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 270, ‘System Safety Program,’ has delayed needed safety improvements for passenger rail.”

After saying there have been six delays of the PTC deadline, Sumwalt called on the Federal Railroad Administration to act.

“It’s time. It’s time to move forward on it,” he said. “We want the FRA to move. They’re saying it will be done by September. It’s time. It’s past time, to get it done. There’s no other way to put it. It’s time, it’s past time, for the FRA to act. As we’ve seen, lives depend on the issuance of that rule.”

Among the key recommendations made by the NTSB, it called for U.S. DOT to require to require inward-facing image and audio recordings in locomotive cabs.

It wants the FRA to act more forcefully on PTC and hinted that all passenger service should operate in PTC territory.

The FRA should also study how better signage and wayside plaques might improve situational awareness for train crews, to compel better compliance with emergency lighting rules, to look into child safety-seat use and research how the compartmentalization approach to interior safety can be affected by the range of passenger sizes.

WSDOT was urged to stop using Talgo Series VI trainsets. Amtrak was told to work harder at training crew members and ensure that they can show knowledge of their territories.

Central Puget Sound Transit was asked to conduct an immediate review of all operating documents, coordinate to develop operating documents with current and prospective tenant on railroads where it is the host, and immediately review its safety program, analyze any gaps, and develop an action plan to address deficiencies.

NTSB to Determine Cause of Cascades Crash

March 17, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to meet on May 21 to determine the probable cause of an Amtrak derailment that killed three people in December 2017 in Washington state.

The NTSB has made a preliminary determination that Cascades Service No. 501 was speeding when it derailed near DuPont, Washington, on Dec. 18, 2017.

The train was operating on the first day of revenue service on new route south of Tacoma.

Sixty-five people including passengers crew members and occupants of motor vehicles on Interstate Highway 5 were injured in the crash. Portions of the train fell onto the highway from a bridge.

Investigators have said the train was traveling at 78 mph in a 30 mph zone when the derailment occurred.

Amtrak Use of Point Defiance Bypass Unlikely Soon

December 22, 2018

Washington State transportation officials say it will be late spring 2019 at the earliest before Amtrak service resumes on a route where a derailment that left three dead occurred on the first day of service on the route.

The 14.5-mile Point Defiance bypass was to be used by Amtrak and Sounder commuter trains south of Tacoma, Washington, and away from the long-used route next to Puget Sound.

But on the morning of Dec. 18, 2017, Cascades No. 501 derailed on a curve near DuPont, Washington.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have said the train was traveling nearly 80 mph as it entered a 30-mph curve.

The accident ramped up the calls for installation of positive train control systems on routes used by passenger trains.

PTC has since been installed on the Point Defiance route and been undergoing testing and crew training this year.

A Washington State Department of Transportation official told Trains magazine that revenue service on the Point Defiance route is not expected until late spring at the earliest.

“We do not have a specific date yet for our return to the Point Defiance Bypass,” says Janet Matkin, WSDOT communications manager.

The spokesperson indicated that officials are awaiting the release of the final NTSB report on the Cascades 501 crash. The NTSD has said its investigation is about two-third completed.

Investigators are examining a number of areas, including the crashworthiness of the Tago equipment used in Cascades service, the emergency response to the crash and Amtrak’s decision to begin using the Point Defiance Bypass before PTC had been installed.

WSDOT has said that PTC has now been installed over the entire length of the Cascades corridor between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, Oregon.

A lawsuit filed after the derailment contends that Amtrak failed to adequately train employees before revenue service began.

Amtrak has denied that charge, but is defending itself in 35 lawsuits stemming from the crash.

Amtrak To Test, Train on Point Defiance Route

December 7, 2018

Amtrak will be conducting training and testing this month on the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

The runs will be conducted during both daytime and nighttime hours at speeds of up to 79 p.m. on Dec. 8 and between Dec. 15 and 16.

The route extends between Tacoma and DuPont and passes through Lakewood.

Amtrak plans to begin scheduled service on the route next spring.

The passenger carrier had started service over the Point Defiance Bypass in late 2017, but on Dec. 18, the first day of service, Cascades Service train 501 derailed on a curve near DuPont.

Investigators have said the train was traveling too fast at the time of the derailment, which left three dead.

NTSB Looking at Talgo Safety

July 24, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board probe into the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train that killed three and injured more than 60 is focusing on the safety of the Talgo equipment involved in the incident.

“Now that we have evidence of how the Talgo trainset performs in a crash, does the [Federal Railroad Administration] have any concerns that would cause you to re-examine your decision to grandfather this equipment?” NTSB investigator Michael Hiller asked an FRA during a recent hearing.

In response, the FRA’s Gary Fairbanks said, “I didn’t see anything as the way the cars performed that would cause us to go back and reconsider the grandfathering petition because the items that were covered in the grandfathering petition performed adequately.”

The Talgo equipment involved in the derailment had been operating under a FRA waiver.

During the hearings, the NTSB also zeroed in on the training of Amtrak locomotive engineers.

The derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service on the Point Defiance Bypass between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington.

NTSB investigators are also questioning if Amtrak did enough to identify a potentially dangerous curve at DuPont, Washington, where Cascades No. 501 derailed.

At issue was whether Amtrak operating personnel received a sufficient number of familiarization trips over the route before revenue service began.

Most of the training runs were made at night to avoid interfering with Sounder commuter trains during the day.

Testimony at the NTSB hearing showed that one training run had seven people in the cab, exceeding the number considered safe by Amtrak standards.

Locomotive engineers were not only learning a new route, but a new locomotive, the SC-44 Charger.

In interviews with NTSB investigators, the engineer of Cascades No. 501 said the curve at milepost 19.8 was on his mind, but that his limited familiarity with the lines of sight from the Charger locomotive may have hindered his ability to see the wayside warning signs until it was too late.

As Cascades No. 501 entered a 30 mph curve, it was traveling at 78 mph.

Mike DeCataldo, Amtrak’s senior director for system safety and customer satisfaction, said  Amtrak will only begin a new service or route “once all safety precautions and mitigations are in place.”

DeCataldo said Amtrak will require a minimum of four round-trips over the entirety of the new route, up from the previous minimum of one, before an engineer or conductor is qualified to operate over it.

Amtrak has said it will not use the Point Defiance Bypass until positive train control train is installed, which is not expected until the end of this year.

In a related development, an Amtrak mechanic has filed a federal whistleblower complaint in connection with the Cascades derailment, saying carrier ignored his safety concerns on the day of the accident.

Michael McClure said in the complaint that he told his superiors that there was a mechanical failure in the trainset that later derailed.

“They were more primarily concerned about getting it out in time for the inaugural run than looking at the safety aspect of it,” McClure said.

He contends that the fault dealt with the train’s braking system. However, it has not been formally established if that played a part in the derailment.

McClure’s complaint alleges that Amtrak has “an ongoing pattern and practice of violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act.”

Attorney Says Cascade Trainset Was Defective

June 8, 2018

An attorney representing a passenger injured in the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train is claiming that the trainset involved in the crash had electrical problems that prevented it from braking properly.

Attorney Jim Vucinovik said he learned of the problem from a whistleblower.

“Amtrak knew that there was an electrical failure of that trainset before it was put into service that morning,” Vuconovik said. “There was a shutdown between the head-end locomotive and the rear locomotive, which are normally linked electronically. Rather than fix that, or get to the root cause of that problem, they de-linked that rear unit which then meant that the rear locomotive unit was not available for braking and/or throttle effect.”

Three passengers were killed in the derailment near DuPont, Washington, and more than 60 others were injured.

A preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Board was that the train was traveling at more than twice the posted speed limit just before reaching the curve where it derailed.

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.