Investigation continues as debate of rail safety heats up

Investigation continues as debate of rail safety heats up

As investigators continue their probe into exactly how an Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday night came to be traveling at twice the posted speed limit, lawmakers in Washington traded barbs over whether the rail system’s safety budget was adequately funded.

The derailment occurred as the train was traveling at approximately 102 mph on a sharp curve in Philadelphia’a Frankford section, where the posted speed limits for trains is 50 miles per hour.

Eight people died in the accident.But officials are now saying all passengers have been accounted for.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board say that the train accelerated, rather than braking, as it entered the curve.

Experts say the accident never would have happened had that section of rail been equipped with a safety device called Positive Train Control or PTC. That technology, which uses GPS to detect a train’s speed, is capable of slowing a train down on in dangerous conditions, even without the intervention of an engineer.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee for a transportation funding package that cut one-fifth of Amtrak’s budget.

Democrats pounced, saying budget shortfalls prevented Amtrak from installing the technology.

But when a reporter from International Business Times asked GOP House Speaker John Boehner is budget shortfalls were to blame, Boehner dismissed the question and shot back at Democrats.

Are you really going to ask — that’s a stupid question,” Boehner said. “They started this yesterday. ‘It’s all about funding. It’s all about funding. Well obviously it’s not about funding. The train was going twice the speed limit. Adequate funds were there, no money’s been cut from rail safety and the House passed a bill earlier this spring to reauthorize Amtrak and authorize a lot of these programs.”

In 2008, Congress mandated that PTC must be installed on all trains by the end of 2015, but Amtrak has struggled to meet that deadline.

Train 188 was equipped with PTC, and it appears that the section of track also had the the system installed. But PTC was not turned on, as is the case for large sections of the Northeast Corridor.

The New York Times reports Amtrak has had difficulty negotiating with wireless providers to get access to the airwaves in the area.

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman says Amtrak “will also continue to focus on completing Positive Train Control implementation in the Northeast Corridor by December of 2015.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer has updated totals on the number of injured and which hospitals they were transported to. It seems that figure is around 150, not the estimates of 200 that were previously reported.