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Accident Report Detail

Safety Recommendation Report: Train Operation During Signal Suspension

Executive Summary

‚ÄčThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating a head-on collision that occurred on February 4, 2018, about 2:27 a.m. eastern standard time on the CSX Transportation (CSX) Columbia Subdivision in Cayce, South Carolina. Southbound Amtrak train 91, operating on a track warrant, diverted from the main track through a reversed hand-thrown switch into a siding and collided head-on with stationary CSX local freight train F777 03.1

The engineer and conductor of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision. At least 92 passengers and crewmembers on the Amtrak train were transported to medical facilities. The engineer of the stopped CSX train had exited the lead locomotive before the Amtrak train entered the siding, ran to safety, and was not injured. The conductor of the CSX lead locomotive saw the Amtrak train approaching in the siding and ran to the back of locomotive. The conductor was thrown off the locomotive and sustained minor injuries.

The normal method of train operation on the subdivision was a traffic control system with wayside signals. Signal indications authorize movement in either direction. On the day before the accident, February 3, 2018, CSX signal personnel suspended the traffic control signal system to install updated traffic control system components for implementing positive train control (PTC) on the subdivision. During this time, scheduled to last through February 4, 2018, the signals would not operate and dispatchers would use track warrants to move trains through absolute blocks in the work territory. Although the installation was only partially complete, the signal personnel stopped work at the accident location at 7:00 p.m., and the signal suspension remained in place.

Probable Cause


As a result of this report, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following urgent safety recommendation:

To the Federal Railroad Administration:

Issue an Emergency Order directing railroads to require that when signal suspensions are in effect and a switch has been reported relined for a main track, the next train or locomotive to pass the location must approach the switch location at restricted speed. After the switch position is verified, the train crew must report to the dispatcher that the switch is correctly lined for the main track before trains are permitted to operate at maximum-authorized speed. (R-18-005) (Urgent)

Accident Location: Cayce , SC USA  
Accident Date: 2/4/2018
Accident ID: RRD18MR003

Date Adopted: 2/13/2018
NTSB Number: RSR1801
NTIS Number: