Railroad Accident Report - Collision Involving Three Consolidated Rail Corporation Freight Trains Operating in Fog

Bryan, Ohio
January 17, 1999

NTSB Number: RAR-01/01
NTIS Number: PB2001-916301
Adopted May 1, 2001
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Executive Summary

About 1:58 a.m. eastern standard time on January 17, 1999, three Consolidated Rail Corporation freight trains operating in fog on a double main track were involved in an accident near Bryan, Ohio. Westbound Mail-9, traveling near maximum authorized speed on track No. 1, struck the rear of a slower moving westbound train, TV-7, at milepost 337.22. The collision caused the derailment of the 3 locomotive units and the first 13 cars of Mail-9 and the last 3 cars of TV-7. The derailed equipment fouled the No. 2 track area and struck the 12th car of train MGL-16, which was operating eastbound on the adjacent track. The impact caused 18 cars in the MGL-16 consist to derail. The engineer and conductor of Mail-9 were killed in the accident. The crewmembers of TV-7 and MGL-16 were not injured. Total estimated damages were $5.3 million.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the crew of train Mail-9 to comply with restrictive signal indications while operating at or near maximum authorized speed in dense fog. Contributing to the accident was the lack of uniformity and consistency in the operating practices of Consolidated Rail Corporation train crews when they encountered conditions of reduced visibility. Also contributing to the accident was the lack of a backup safety system that would have helped alert the crewmembers of train Mail-9 to the restrictive signal indications.

The major safety issues discussed in this report are as follows:

  • Train movement under reduced visibility conditions,
  • Positive train control for collision avoidance, and
  • Adequacy of recorded information for postaccident analysis.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, all Class I railroads, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the United Transportation Union, the Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Additionally, the Safety Board reiterates one and reclassifies three safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation of the January 17, 1999, accident in Bryan, Ohio, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

New Recommendations

To the Federal Railroad Administration:

Facilitate actions necessary for development and implementation of positive train control systems that include collision avoidance, and require implementation of positive train control systems on main line tracks, establishing priority requirements for high-risk corridors such as those where commuter and intercity passenger railroads operate. (R-01-6)

To all Class I railroads:

Include, in your operational (efficiency) testing program, specific signal tests designed to ensure that your train crews consistently follow uniform operating procedures when they encounter reduced visibility conditions en route. (R-01-7)

To the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers: (R-01-8)

To the United Transportation Union: (R-01-9)

Advise your members of the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the January 17, 1999, railroad accident in Bryan, Ohio, and of the criticality of complying with operating rules when operating under reduced visibility conditions.

To the Association of American Railroads: (R-01-10)

To the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association: (R-01-11)

Advise your member railroads of the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the January 17, 1999, railroad accident in Bryan, Ohio, and of the criticality of complying with operating rules when operating under reduced visibility conditions.

Recommendations Reiterated in This Report

To the Federal Railroad Administration:

R-97-9
Amend 49 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 229, to require the recording of train crewmembers' voice communications for exclusive use in accident investigations and with appropriate limitations on the public release of such recordings.

Recommendations Reclassified in This Report

To the Federal Railroad Administration:

R-87-16
Promulgate Federal standards to require the installation and operation of a train control system on main line tracks that will provide for positive separation of all trains.

R-93-12
In conjunction with the Association of American Railroads and the Railroad Progress Institute, establish a firm timetable that includes at a minimum, dates for final development of required advanced train control system hardware, dates for an implementation of a fully developed advanced train control system, and a commitment to a date for having the advanced train control system ready for installation on the general railroad system.

R-97-13
Require the implementation of positive train separation control systems for all trains where commuter and intercity passenger railroads operate.

Safety Recommendation R-87-16, previously classified "Open-Acceptable Action," and Safety Recommendations R-93-12 and R-97-13, both previously classified "Open-Acceptable Response," are reclassified "Closed-Acceptable Action/Superseded" in the "Positive Train Control for Collision Avoidance" section of this report.