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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-16-036
Synopsis: About 9:21 p.m. eastern daylight time on May 12, 2015, eastbound Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation) passenger train 188 derailed at milepost 81.62 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The train had just entered the Frankford Junction curve—where the speed is restricted to 50 mph—at 106 mph. It was dark and 81°F with no precipitation; visibility was 10 miles. As the train entered the curve, the locomotive engineer applied the emergency brakes. Seconds later, the train—one locomotive and seven passenger cars—derailed. There were 245 passengers, 5 on-duty Amtrak employees, and 3 off-duty Amtrak employees on board. Eight passengers were killed, and 185 others were transported to area hospitals. The NTSB determines that the probable cause of the accident was the engineer’s acceleration to 106 mph as he entered a curve with a 50 mph speed restriction, due to his loss of situational awareness likely because his attention was diverted to an emergency situation with another train. Contributing to the accident was the lack of a positive train control system. Contributing to the severity of the injuries were the inadequate requirements for occupant protection in the event of a train overturning.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: When the research specified in Safety Recommendation R-16-35 identifies safety improvements, use the findings to develop occupant protection standards for passenger railcars to mitigate passenger injuries likely to occur during derailments and overturns.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Initial Response Received
Mode: Railroad
Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA15MR010
Accident Reports: Preliminary Report: Railroad ​DCA15MR010Derailment of Amtrak Passenger Train 188
Report #: RAR-16-02
Accident Date: 5/12/2015
Issue Date: 6/9/2016
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Initial Response Received)

Safety Recommendation History
From: FRA
Date: 8/23/2017
Response: -From Heath Hall, Acting Administrator: This reply is in response to the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) June 9, 2016, letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding the NTSB 's Safety Recommendations R-16-35 and R-16-36. Enclosed is FRA's response to these recommendations. FRA believes its ongoing efforts to improve passenger safety address the specific directives in these recommendations. Therefore, FRA respectfully requests NTSB classify Safety Recommendations R-16-35 and R-16-36 as, "Closed-Acceptable Response." FRA plans to continue its long history developing occupant protection standards based on research. FRA has continuously relied on both industry and internal research to form the basis of its passenger safety rulemakings since first issuing the initial Passenger Equipment Safety Standards in 1999. 5 Every passenger equipment safety rulemaking since has incorporated findings from occupant protection research, most notably in the areas of crash energy management and interior fittings and attachments. As noted above, FRA's most recent passenger equipment NPRM6 continues to build on this research for minimizing the risk of hazardous projectiles and other occupant protection requirements. Specifically, FRA's RSAC has been instrumental in developing passenger equipment safety standards based on research. On May 20, 2003, FRA presented the RSAC with the task of reviewing passenger equipment safety needs and programs to provide recommendations on actions that could be taken to advance the safety of passenger rail service. In response, RSAC formed the Passenger Safety Working Group, which consists of many of the same entities and representatives present in the full RSAC, but also provides industry expertise in areas specific to passenger rail safety. In 2009, the Working Group created the Engineering Task Force (ETF) to further examine issues and research topics concerning passenger equipment safety, including occupant protection. The ETF's development of recommendations for regulatory actions is ongoing. The RSAC process remains the primary mechanism for FRA to discuss and develop Federal regulations related to passenger equipment safety issues. FRA will continue to use the RSAC Working Group and ETF to address the regulatory needs of passenger railcar occupant protection, including any necessary safety improvements consistent with the intent of this safety recommendation.

From: NTSB
Date: 6/9/2017
Response: On May 17, 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) adopted its report concerning the May 12, 2015, accident in which Amtrak passenger train 188 derailed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.1 Additional information about this accident and the resulting recommendations may be found in the report of the investigation, which can be accessed at our website,, under report number RAR-16/02. As a result of this investigation, we reiterated Safety Recommendation R-14-74 to the Federal Railroad Administration; reclassified Safety Recommendations R-15-28, R-15-29, and R-15-30 to Amtrak; closed Safety Recommendation R-13-23 to the Federal Railroad Administration; and issued 11 new safety recommendations, including one to Amtrak; one to the American Public Transportation Association and the Association of American Railroads; two to the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Fire Department, and the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management; one to the mayor of Philadelphia; one to the National Association of State EMS Officials, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Emergency Management Association, the National Association of EMS Physicians, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs; and the following five recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration.