Investigators probing a fatal May 12 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia haven’t ruled out human error, after finding no defects in the brakes and signals or evidence the train was hit by a projectile, according to Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman.

The accident that killed eight passengers remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Northbound Train 188 was traveling at 106 miles per hour, more than twice the speed limit on a bend in the track when it derailed, investigators have said.

Investigators are still analyzing the mobile phone records of engineer Brian Bostian and matching them with data from the train. That will determine whether Bostian, who has said he doesn’t remember what happened, was using his phone in violation of policy, NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in testimony prepared for a House hearing on Tuesday at which Boardman also will appear.

A safety system that can automatically slow a train going too fast into a curve wasn’t installed on the northbound tracks in Philadelphia. Amtrak hadn’t anticipated that an engineer might speed up going into the curve, Boardman will tell the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The notion that an engineer might actually accelerate into the northbound curve was not a circumstance we anticipated, and thus we didn’t mitigate for it,” Boardman said.

The technology is installed on the southbound tracks. U.S. regulators want all passenger rail systems including Amtrak to install a more advanced technology called positive train control, Sarah Feinberg, the acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, said in prepared testimony.

PTC can automatically slow trains and prevent collisions or travel on incorrect tracks, Feinberg said, calling it the most important advance in railroad safety in a century.

After the crash, Amtrak installed the automatic braking technology on the northbound tracks where the train derailed. The railroad says it will install cameras in its locomotives to help determine the causes of future crashes.

The head of the labor union that represents Bostian cautioned that such cameras won’t prevent a crash.

“Installation of cameras will provide the public nothing more than a false sense of security,” Dennis Pierce, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen national president, said in prepared testimony.

Republicans on the committee want to know why Amtrak didn’t spend profits earned from its Northeast Corridor route on safety upgrades, including locomotive cameras and Positive Train Control, aides to the lawmakers said on Monday. They requested anonymity in order to preview the hearing.


This article was written by Angela Greiling Keane from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Tags: amtrak, trains
Photo Credit: Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train wreck in Philadelphia. Patrick Semansky / Associated Press