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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-17-018
Synopsis: On April 3, 2016, about 7:50 a.m. eastern daylight time, southbound Amtrak train 89 (train 89) struck a backhoe with a worker inside at milepost 15.7 near Chester, Pennsylvania. The train was authorized to operate on main track 3 (track 3) at the maximum authorized speed of 110 mph. Beginning on the morning of April 1, Amtrak had cheduled track-bed restoration?ballast vacuuming—at milepost 15.7 on track 2 on the Philadelphia to Washington Line. Track 2 had to be taken out of service between control points Baldwin (milepost 11.7) and Hook (milepost 16.8) for the 55 hour duration of the project. As train 89 approached milepost 15.7, the locomotive engineer saw equipment and workers on and near track 3 and initiated an emergency brake application. The train speed was 106 mph before the emergency brake application and 99 mph when it struck the backhoe. Two roadway workers were killed, and 39 other people were injured. Amtrak estimated property damages to be $2.5 million. The accident investigation focused on the following safety issues: roadway worker protection, communication between dispatchers and foremen, lack of job briefing, and safety management. As a result of this investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, American Railway and Airway Supervisors Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen. The National Transportation Safety Board also reiterates a recommendation to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Require railroads to install technology on hi-rail, backhoes, other independently operating pieces of maintenance-of-way equipment, and on the leading and trailing units of sets of maintenance-of-way equipment operated by maintenance workers to provide dispatchers and the dispatch system an independent source of information on the locations of this equipment to prevent unauthorized incursions by trains onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place in accordance with the Congressional mandate under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Railroad
Location: Chester, PA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA16FR007
Accident Reports: Preliminary Report: Railroad DCA16FR007Amtrak Train Collision with Maintenance-of-Way Equipment, Chester, Pennsylvania​​Safety Recommendation Report: Using Technology to Protect Maintenance-of-Way Employees
Report #: RAR-17-02
Accident Date: 4/3/2016
Issue Date: 12/28/2017
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Open - Acceptable Response)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 4/22/2019
Response: We note that you have asked your railroad safety advisory committee (RSAC) to evaluate the feasibility of implementing this recommendation. We further note that such an RSAC evaluation is part of your process for developing new regulations. We point out that existing technology can be used or modified for rail environments, and installing this available hardware and software would satisfy this recommendation. Pending a requirement that railroads install the recommended technology, Safety Recommendation R-17-18 is classified OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
Date: 5/3/2018
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: FRA will evaluate the feasibility of implementing this recommendation, which may call for a task statement to be drafted and accepted by FRA's RSAC and a working group to be formed or assigned to address it. Such efforts would include studies to research existing technologies, collection of related accident data, and consideration of costs. FRA respectfully asks that NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-17-18 as "Open-Acceptable Response."

From: FRA
Date: 1/11/2018
Response: -From Karl Alexy, Director, Office of Safety Analysis: Thank you for the report, Amtrak Train Collision with Maintenance-of-Way Equipment, Chester, Pennsylvania, April 3, 2016, NTSBIRAR-17102, which was sent to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on December 28, 2017. In Section 5.1 of the report, NTSB issued to FRA two Safety Recommendations, R-17-17 and R-17-18, as a result of its findings. Improving safety is FRA's top priority, and FRA will continue to work to make rail shipments as safe as possible. FRA is committed to working with NTSB to prevent future accidents and save lives. FRA welcomes and will consider all recommendations that will further that goal.

From: NTSB
Date: 12/28/2017
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in other modes of transportation—railroad, highway, marine, and pipeline. We determine the probable cause of the accidents and issue safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In addition, we carry out special studies concerning transportation safety and coordinate the resources of the federal government and other organizations to provide assistance to victims and their family members affected by major transportation disasters. On November 14, 2017, the NTSB adopted its report Amtrak Train Collision with Maintenance of Way Equipment, Chester, Pennsylvania, April 3, 2016, NTSB/RAR 17/02. The details of this accident investigation and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the attached report, which can also be accessed at Among the Safety Recommendations are two issued to the Federal Railroad Administration, which can be found on page 69 of the report. The NTSB also reiterated Safety Recommendation R-08-06 to the Federal Railroad Administration, which is on page 71 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement the recommendations.