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Northeast Ohio safety expert: Amtrak needs to improve safety

Posted at 11:47 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-06 06:00:11-05

Recent Amtrak fatal crashes in South Carolina, and in Washington State, have some safety experts across the country asking some serious questions about safety on Amtrak passenger trains.

National railroad safety expert Bob Comer believes the recent series of Amtrak crashes, including fatal accidents in South Carolina and  Washington State, should have riders demanding safety improvements.

Comer told News 5 delays in complete national implementation of positive train control systems, which use GPS to monitor train and track conditions, is a huge issue.

Comer said the complete system was originally to be in place in 2015, but said the railroad companies keep asking the federal government to move back the deadline.

"It's now out to the end of this year, and now the railroads are asking for two more years, out to 2020," said Comer

"They just keep pushing it out and pushing it out."  

"Amtrak is averaging an incident a day.  Their trains run 20 miles and hour faster, in most parts of the United States, than the freight trains"

Comer also believes shoulder and lap seatbelts would help in passenger train crashes.

However the Federal Railroad Administration disagrees, when it comes to seat belts on trains.

The FRA issued the following statement:

"FRA and others have studied using seatbelts on passenger trains for many years.  Those studies show that seatbelts with only lap belts actually increase the risk of injury to passengers in train accidents.

Given their size and mass, passenger trains are able to absorb collision energy better than automobiles and commercial aircraft.  FRA has studied the use of seat belts and found that their use in passenger trains is not conclusively safer."

Meanwhile Amtrak pledged to have positive train control installed and operating on all of its trains by the end of the year, and issued the following statement concerning passenger safety and its equipment:

"Amtrak rail equipment complies with federal standards, which are set by the Federal Railroad Administration."