Posts Tagged ‘railroad safety’

Amtrak Names New Safety Officer

October 30, 2019

Amtrak has appointed Steve Predmore executive vice president and chief safety officer effective Nov. 4.

He will succeed Ken Hylander, who plans to retire on Nov. 15.

In a news release, Amtrak said Predmore will oversee the system safety, compliance and training, environmental compliance, sustainability and public health groups.

He will report to Stephen Gardner, senior executive vice president and chief operating and commercial officer.

Most recently, Predmore was vice president and chief safety officer with the Bristow Group, a provider of aircraft for offshore transportation, and search and rescue.

He also served as senior vice president of safety for MV Transportation, a provider of contracted passenger services, and spent nearly two decades in aviation industry, having served in safety roles at JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines.

Hylander, who joined Amtrak in January 2018, had been been responsible for implementing a safety management system at the passenger carrier.

Rail Safety Event Set at Baseball Game in Anaheim

August 30, 2019

Amtrak, California Operation Lifesaver and the Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team will collaborate on a public safety event on Sept. 1 in Anaheim.

There will be a rail safety booth at Angel Stadium of Anaheim featuring rail safety experts who will provide tips for staying safe around railroad tracks.

The stadium is a stop for Pacific Surfliner trains operating between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

OLI officials said that California leads the nation in annual fatalities due to accidents at grade crossings and trespassing incidents.

Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney recently recorded a radio message in which he encourages fans to follow safety rules around railroad tracks and crossings. The radio spot will air on KLAA through September.

September is rail safety month in California, and Sept. 22-28 is U.S. Rail Safety Week.

Human Error Ruled Cause of Silver Star Crash

July 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that human error led to the February 2018 collision in South Carolina of an Amtrak train and a parked CSX train.

Two Amtrak crew members were killed in the collision and 74 others aboard the train were injured.

The accident happened when Amtrak’s southbound Silver Star was routed into a siding where the CSX train was sitting unattended in Cayce, South Carolina.

The NTSB investigation determined that the conductor of the CSX train had reported to the train’s engineer that a switch from the main to the siding had been realigned for the main.

The engineer in turn relayed that information to a dispatcher. However, the conductor had not realigned the switch.

At the time of the collision, the signal system on a 23-mile segment of the Columbia Subdivision has been suspended while workers were installing equipment for positive train control.

Trains were being dispatched by track warrants given over the radio.

The NTSB also concluded that the collision occurred as a result of inadequate attention to safety risks.

The board concluded that CSX failed to identify and mitigate the risk of operating trains while the signal system was under suspension.

Killed in the collision was the Amtrak engineer and conductor, who on the head end to copy train orders.

The Silver Star was traveling at more than 50 miles per hour when it struck CSX local F777.

“CSX failed to ensure that this crew was properly prepared to perform the tasks CSX assigned them to do that night,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, about the events leading to the Feb. 4, 2018, collision.

In the wake of the Silver Star accident, the NTSB asked the Federal Railroad Administration to issue an emergency order requiring railroads to operate trains at restricted speed approaching switches when a signal suspension is in effect.

In response the FRA issued an advisory to that effect, but not a rule. The NTSB in its final report repeated its recommendation that this be made a rule.

The NTSB also said the FRA could do more to prevent accident caused by misaligned switches, such as requiring the installation of switch position indicators.

In the Silver Star investigation, NTSB personnel found that CSX never conducted efficiency testing, or a skills assessment, on either the engineer or conductor of F777 for the purposes of ensuring proper switch alignment.

“I believe that the conductor had every intention of following the rules and thought that he did,” Mike Hoepf a consultant on human performance told NTSB. “He just made a mistake.”

The final NTSB report also called into question the effectiveness of using a Switch Position Awareness Form to mitigate the risk of an improperly lined switch.

No such form used by the F777 crew on that day was found by NTSB investigators.

Agency Wants CN to Assess Safety For VIA

March 30, 2019

After two VIA Rail Canada trains were damaged by track work materials that had been placed along their route, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada issued a safety advisory letter.

The Safety Board suggested that host railroad Canadian National conduct a risk assessment to come up with safety measures that will prevent VIA equipment from being damaged.

The materials had been placed along the tracks in advance of track work projects.

The Safety Board took action after two incident occurred.

On first of those occurred on Feb. 2 near Brighton, Ontario, when combined trains 52 (Toronto-Ottawa) and 62 (Toronto-Montreal) struck tie plates plated between the rails.

A locomotive fuel tank ruptured and 1,600 gallons of diesel fuel was spilled.

Debris from that incident also resulted in a CN employee in a hi-rail vehicle parked near the track being seriously injured.

The train struck the tie plates while traveling at 95 mph.

The second incident occurred March 20, near Truro, Nova Scotia, when the westbound Ocean was damaged by materials, including tie plates.

In that incident, the second locomotive in the two-engine, 14-car consist also sustained a punctured fuel tanks. Some windows in passenger cars were broken, but there were no injuries.

Safety Chief Sees Progress, More Work to Do

December 23, 2018

Kenneth Hylander faced a tall order when he agreed to take over as Amtrak’s chief safety officer in January 2018.

Hylander

Nearly a year later, he told Progressive Railroading that much work remains to be done to transform the safety culture at the passenger carrier, but much progress has also been achieved.

Hylander told the magazine that the company has laid the foundation for a new safety culture and employees have received letters explaining safety policies.

During 2019, Amtrak’s safety program will be explained and executed more thoroughly from top to bottom in the organization.

The new safety program, known as a safety management system or SMS, will require time to implement, Hylander told Progressive Railroading.

“If you look at other industries that have gone through this process, it takes a multiyear act to get there,” he said.

Hylander honed his safety program skills at Delta Air Lines, which Amtrak’s CEO Richard Anderson once headed before coming to the rail passenger carrier.

Before coming to Amtrak, Hylander had read the various reports of the National Transportation Safety Board that concluded that Amtrak suffered from a poor safety culture.

Antagonistic relations between management and Amtrak’s labor unions were a major part of that.

Amtrak has suffered a series of high-profile incidents resulting in fatalities to 11 passengers and nine employees since fiscal year 2013. That had brought scrutiny from news media, regulators and transportation policy makers.

“Amtrak’s safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

Amtrak executives contended that they had taken substantive steps to overhaul the railroad’s safety record, including the adoption of a new safety policy, risk-based management procedures, data acquisition and analytics.

That included hiring Hylander, who was well-versed in SMS, a comprehensive approach to managing safety that features policy and documentation procedures, risk assessment, quality assurance and reinforcement of a safety culture throughout an organization.

He told Progressive Railroading that his first task was to study Amtrak’s existing safety policies and procedures, including how they were implemented or not implemented.

He said that review led him to conclude that Amtrak needed to emphasize that every employee is responsible for operating safely on the job.

The Amtrak board of directors adopted a resolution setting the goal of becoming the “safest passenger railroad” in the nation.

The board followed that up by officially updating Amtrak’s safety policy.

“The [new] policy means that every employee has the ability to stop the operation if they see something happening that’s not safe,” Hylander said. “We want to be a data driven organization and we want to learn from our mistakes. And we want employees to tell us about errors through voluntary safety programs, and that we can’t and won’t tolerate unsafe behavior or intentional disregard for safety.”

He told Progressive Railroading that he agreed with the NTSB assessment labor-management relations at Amtrak needed to improve if safety procedures were to be followed and enforced.

That included a recognition that the railroad industry’s practice that an employee is to be disciplined for every rules violations was hindering an open dialogue with employees who observe safety violations.

Hylander said the voluntary safety programs at Amtrak are a good start but need to be more efficient.

“Employees have to feel they can tell us what’s going on without fear of being put in harm’s way through the disciplinary process,” he said.

Hylander has spent much of his first year improving Amtrak’s safety improvement metrics, which include monitoring employee injuries and rule violations.

Amtrak also needed to change how it assessed potential safety risks.

“Now, we have a totally different system for how we’re going to review a situation and make determinations for how we’re going to operate trains,” Hylander said. “Generally, it means we’re a bit more conservative about what happens or what the host railroad rules may say.”

That process led to controversy when Amtrak executives made public statements earlier this year suggesting the carrier would refuse to operate trains on host railroads that have not implemented a positive train control system by Jan. 1, 2019.

Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General issued a report saying Amtrak had yet to achieve interoperability with the PTC systems of 19 of his host railroads and was unlikely to do so by the target date at 13 of those railroads.

“From a safety department perspective, we know there will be areas of the country in Amtrak’s system that do not yet have PTC because of a mainline track exclusion or because a host railroad has an alternative [implementation] schedule or will by the end of the year,” Hylander said. “So, we’ve applied our safety risk management principles to those areas and literally, mile by mile, have gone through and assessed the risks, from switches to bridges to rails. We are determining what does our SMS do to mitigate those risks for the areas that are lacking PTC.”

Amtrak has since said that it will do all it can to continue operating all trains over their entire routes.

“We will do everything in our power to operate. We are working closely with the tenant railroads and are putting them through the same safety risk assessment that we’re putting ourselves through,” Hylander said.

As 2019 approaches, Amtrak is preparing to make increased use of data analysis to correct safety issues.

Hylander noted that in the airline industry data from every flight is reviewed for operating anomalies. Those reviews are used to make safety corrections.

He wants to see the same process done for every train trip.

Another area of development is revamping safety training.

“We’re using a new instructional design process, and last year and this year we’ve revisited over 100 classes that are connected to safety training,” Hylander said. “We are putting a more formal, structured process around those classes.”

Signal System Had Been Turned Off to Install PTC

February 6, 2018

Some news accounts of the head-on collision between an Amtrak train and a CSX freight train in South Carolina early Sunday morning mentioned that the signal system in place on the line had been turned off.

There was a reason for that. CSX crews were working to cut in a positive train control system on the route, the same system that National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said might have prevented the crash.

During a news conference on Monday afternoon, Sumwalt said Amtrak’s southbound Silver Star was operating with track warrants in temporarily dark territory.  See a post below for an account of the final seconds before the crash.

Crews for Amtrak and CSX were in verbal contact with the dispatcher controlling that stretch of track where the work was being performed, which is the Columbia Subdivision of the Florence Division.

Sumwalt said NTSB investigators have thus far not found any problems with the track where the collision occurred in Cayce, South Carolina.

Earlier NTSB news briefings said that a switch had been left aligned to route Amtrak train No. 91 into the path of the CSX auto rack train, which was sitting on a siding without a crew onboard.

The collision, which destroyed Amtrak P42DC No. 47 and CSX AC44CW Nos. 130 resulted in an Amtrak engineer and conductor being killed.

Sumwalt said the NTSB inquiry will be broader than the mechanics of how the crash occurred.

“It is very important that we look at each of these incidents in isolation to determine if there are systemic issues,” Sumwalt, making reference to other incidents involving Amtrak in recent months. “Last Wednesday, it was a garbage truck that was on the track. We aren’t sure what happened here [and] why that switch was lined for the siding. We do look at safety culture issues and we did a report in October.”

That report, which reviewed an April 2016 incident in the Northeast Corridor in Pennsylvania that left two Amtrak maintenance of way workers dead, was critical of Amtrak’s lack of an effective safety culture.