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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-17-017
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: Enact Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 270, System Safety Program, without further delay.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Unacceptable 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 - Unacceptable Response)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 4/22/2019
Response: We are aware that before this recommendation was issued, you published the System Safety Rule on August 12, 2016. This rule requires that commuter and intercity passenger railroads develop and implement a system safety program to evaluate and manage safety risks. We are disappointed that, after 2 years, you have granted multiple extensions to this regulation that have delayed its effective date to September 4, 2019. In the years since the rule was published, accidents have continued to occur. In addition to the accident near Chester, Pennsylvania, we are currently investigating two railroad accidents involving Amtrak trains which may show the need for this recommendation. On February 4, 2018, southbound Amtrak train 91, diverted from the main track through a hand-thrown switch into a siding and collided head-on with a stationary CSX Transportation freight train in Cayce, South Carolina. The engineer and conductor of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision, and 92 passengers and crewmembers on the Amtrak train were transported to medical facilities. In another accident, on December 18, 2017, southbound Amtrak train 501 derailed from a bridge near Dupont, Washington. Several passenger railcars fell off the bridge onto Interstate 5 and hit multiple highway vehicles. Three rail passengers were killed, and 57 passengers and crewmembers were injured. Additionally, 8 individuals in highway vehicles were injured. These accidents show the continuing need for all commuter and intercity passenger railroads to develop and deploy system safety programs. Pending issuance of the recommended requirement, Safety Recommendation R-17-17 is classified OPEN--UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FRA
Date: 5/3/2018
Response: -From Ronald L. Batory, Administrator: Since publishing the System Safety Program final rule on August 12, 2016, FRA received petitions for reconsideration from labor organizations and State and local transportation departments and authorities, including a request to stay the rule's effective date pending FRA's response to the petitions. FRA initially stayed the effective date of the final rule on February 10, 2017, and on November 30, 2017, last extended the effective date of the final rule until December 4, 2018. FRA convened a Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) meeting on October 30, 2017, to discuss the petitions for reconsideration and comments received in response to the petitions for reconsideration. FRA is in the process of considering recent stakeholder feedback arising from the meeting to address the issues raised in the petitions. FRA respectfully asks that NTSB classify Safety Recommendation R-17-17 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