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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-83-104
Details
Synopsis: ON APRIL 3, 1983, AMTRAK PASSENGER TRAIN NO. 820 (THE CRESCENT), EN ROUTE FROM NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, TO WASHINGTON, D.C., WITH 331 PASSENGERS AND 18 CREWMEMBERS ABOARD, DERAILED WHEN IT STRUCK A LANDSLIDE NEAR ROCKFISH, VIRGINIA, ON SOUTHERN RAILWAY SYSTEM (SR) TRACK ABOUT 23 MILES SOUTH OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA. HEAVY RAINS IN THE AREA PRECEDED THE LANDSLIDE. THE TRACK HAD BEEN INSPECTED 6 HOURS BEFORE THE ACCIDENT. THE TRAIN WAS MOVING ABOUT 48 MPH AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT. THERE WAS NO TRAIN ORDER IN EFFECT FOR REDUCED SPEED IN THE AREA OF THE DERAILMENT. TWENTY-FOUR PERSONS WERE INJURED, AND DAMAGE WAS ESTIMATED TO BE $232,000.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE SOUTHERN RAILWAY SYSTEM: EXAMINE PERIODICALLY ITS RIGHTS-OF-WAY FOR UNSTABLE SLOPE CONDITIONS, AND ELIMINATE THESE CONDITIONS WHERE POSSIBLE. INSTALL SLIDE DETECTION DEVICES OR ADOPT OTHER APPROPRIATE MEASURES TO DETECT LANDSLIDES WHERE UNSTABLE SLOPE CONDITIONS CANNOT BE ELIMINATED.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Reconsidered
Mode: Railroad
Location: Rockfish, VA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA83AR005
Accident Reports: Derailment of Amtrak Train No. 820 (The Crescent) of Southern Railway System Track
Report #: RAR-83-10
Accident Date: 4/3/1983
Issue Date: 1/4/1984
Date Closed: 3/13/1985
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: Southern Railway System (Closed - Reconsidered)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: Southern Railway System
Date: 3/13/1985
Response: The Board appreciates receiving the detailed description of Southern Railway's continuing efforts to improve the stability of slope conditions on its rights-of-way. These efforts, which have included the installation of slide detector fences, resloping and reseeding projects, improved drainage, and the movement of track away from the face of cuts where a possibility, indicate that the recommended policy already was in effect and continues to be followed. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation R-83-104 has been placed in a "Closed-Reconsidered" status.

From: Southern Railway System
To: NTSB
Date: 11/20/1984
Response: SOUTHERN RAILWAY SYSTEM: IT HAS BEEN, AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE, THE PRACTICE OF SOUTHERN RAILWAY PERIODICALLY TO EXAMINE ITS RIGHT OF WAY FOR UNSTABLE SLOPE CONDITIONS, AND TO ELIMINATE THOSE CONDITIONS TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE. FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE GENERAL VICINITY OF ROCKFISH, VIRGINIA, SOUTHERN RAILWAY BEFORE AND AFTER THE 4/3/83, DERAILMENT OF THE AMTRAK TRAIN DID EXTENSIVE WORK ON THE UNSTABLE SLOPE CONDITION PROBLEM. IN 1982 AT GILBERT, VIRGINIA, THE RAILROAD SPENT ABOUT $600,000 TO WIDEN AND RAISE THE ROAD BED, IMPROVE THE DRAINAGE, AND INCREASE THE FLOW OR RUN-OFF WATER AWAY FROM THE ROADBED. THEN, IN 1983 THE RAILROAD SLOPED A CUT AT RED HILL, VIRGINIA, AND RESEEDED THE SLOPE TO PREVENT EROSION. IN THIS SAME PROGRAM WE HAVE RESLOPED THE CUTS AT ROCKFISH AT M.P. 135 AND 136. THESE RESLOPING PROJECTS INCLUDED RESEEDING AND COST THE COMPANY ABOUT $400,000. ALSO, IN 1983, SOUTHERN RAILWAY INSTALLED THREE NEW SLIDE DETECTOR FENCES AT M.P. 152.2, 137.2, AND 127.1 AT A COMBINED COST OF $311,000. ON THREE SEPARATE SEGMENTS WHERE THE RAILROAD FORMERLY HAD DOUBLE TRACK, WHICH WAS ELIMINATED WHEN CTC WAS INSTALLED, WE HAVE LINED THE REMAINING MAIN TRACK OVER ON THE EXISTING ROADBED AWAY FROM THE FACE OF CUTS WHERE SLIDES WERE A POSSIBILITY. THESE THREE SEGMENTS TOTALED 2.5 MILES IN LENGTH, AND THE COST OF THE WORK WAS ABOUT $50,000. FURTHER, AFTER CLEARING THE FACES OF CUTS OF COMBUSTIBLE MATERIALS, AS REQUIRED BY VIRGINIA LAW, THE RAILROAD SPENT $40,000 TO RESEED AND MULCH BETWEEN MONROE AND CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA, IN 1983. WE BEGAN A PROGRAM IN 1982 TO CUT AND REMOVE TREES FOUND GROWING ON THE FACE OF CUTS AND WHICH MIGHT FALL OVER ON THE RAILS IF DAMAGED BY STORMS OR SUBJECTED TO HEAVY ACCUMULA TIONS OF SNOW AND ICE. AS PART OF THE REGULAR TRACK MAINTENANCE PROGRAM THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE RAILROAD, SOUTHERN RAILWAY USES A GRADALL DITCHING MACHINE EQUIPPED WITH HY-RAIL WHEELS AND A THREE-WAY DUMP TRUCK TO CLEAN OUT DITCHES AND CUTS TO MAINTAIN THE FLOW OF RAINWATER AND DRAIN AND STABILIZE THE ROADBED, AND TO REMOVE LOOSE ROCKS FROM THE FACE OF CUT SLOPES.

From: NTSB
To: Southern Railway System
Date: 11/16/1984
Response: On January 4, 1984, the National Transportation Safety Board issued Safety Recommendations R-83-103 through -105 to the Southern Railway System. These recommendations were issued as a result of the Board's investigation of the derailment of an Amtrak train on Southern Railway System track near Rockfish, Virginia, on April 3, 1983. The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent Federal Agency with the statutory responsibility "…to promote transportation safety by conducting independent accident investigations and by formulating safety improvement recommendations" (Public Law 93-633). The Safety Board is vitally interested in any actions taken as a result of its safety recommendations. Our records show that we have not received any indication of action taken by the Southern Railway System regarding the recommended actions. We would appreciate being informed as to what efforts are being made to implement these recommendations. The Safety Board's letter including these recommendations is enclosed for your information.