Sound Transit issues statement and background following NTSB meeting to discuss findings in its investigation of Amtrak Cascades derailment

Publish Date

Sound Transit today issued the below statement and background following the National Transportation Safety Board's meeting to discuss findings in its investigation of the Amtrak Cascades derailment in DuPont, Wash. on December 18, 2017.

This Nisqually Amtrak accident causing three fatalities and numerous injuries was a terrible tragedy that sears in the memory of all of us at Sound Transit. We continue to extend our deep sympathies to all of the individuals and families affected.  While Sound Transit does not operate any service in the segment of track where the accident took place, as owner of the track we commit to closely reviewing the NTSB's report and implementing recommendations in collaboration with Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation, BNSF and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Ahead of the report Sound Transit has already worked with partners to implement graduated speed limits and supplementary signs as well as crew communications requirements, as the NTSB today recommended. PTC is now fully operational in the corridor.  

Background

Sound Transit has been a leader among commuter railroads in the United States in implementing PTC and completed all investments in advance of last December's federal deadline. The launch of PTC in 2018 has greatly increased safety on this corridor and others where passenger trains operate, especially for over-speed incidents. If PTC had been operational on the train that derailed it would have detected an inappropriate speed in relation to the train's location and applied automatic braking.

Actions Sound Transit has taken so far include:

  1. Graduated speed reduction – As the owner of the segment Sound Transit has implemented revised speed limits for a graduated reduction in the approach to the curve in the Lakewood Subdivision from 79 mph to 50 mph to 30 mph.
  2. Crew Focus Zone – In the rules that Sound Transit provides for all users of the tracks, Sound Transit has added requirements for an inter-crew communication protocol approaching the curve where the derailment occurred that requires verbal communications between the train's operator and conductor about speed restrictions.

The derailment occurred on a section of track between DuPont and Tacoma known as the Lakewood Subdivision that Sound Transit acquired for the purpose of establishing Sounder commuter rail service between Tacoma and Lakewood. While Sound Transit does not plan to utilize the southerly section of tracks where the derailment occurred, the agency agreed to allow the Amtrak Cascades program to design and fund improvements to the tracks that would enable its trains to use them. In 2017 Sound Transit completed the improvements to the tracks that were funded by the Amtrak Cascades program. Contractors completed installation of PTC equipment in February 2018, enabling PTC use by Amtrak and other operators following their installation and activation of train and back-office PTC systems. At the time of the derailment PTC was not implemented by Amtrak anywhere on the Cascades corridor.