News Releases

After the deadly Amtrak derailment near DuPont last December that killed three people and left 70 injured, Senator Murray questioned federal officials about progress implementing a key safety measure called Positive Train Control

A preliminary accident report indicates that PTC would have prevented the DuPont derailment

All railroads are required to have PTC by December 31, 2018, but an internal assessment suggests a number of railroads are in jeopardy of missing deadline

Senator Murray to official: When will railroads know there will be consequences for failures to meet the deadline?

Senator Murray poses questions during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on rail safety on Wednesday, May 16th.

(Washington, D.C.)  – Today in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on railroad safety, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned top federal and Amtrak officials about their progress implementing Positive Train Control, long-awaited safety technology designed to prevent accidents such as the one that occurred on an I-5 overpass on December 18, 2017, near DuPont, Washington. The derailment of Amtrak Cascades train 501 killed three train passengers and injured 70 other people who were either on the train or in their vehicles on the road below.

Witnesses at today’s Senate hearing included the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Ronald Batory and Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Gardner. Senator Murray started by asking Administrator Batory for specifics about the work FRA is doing with railroads, Amtrak, and commuter railroads to ensure they implement PTC by December 31st, 2018—and how FRA planned to handle railroads that missed the deadline.

Watch the exchange HERE.

Senator Murray also pushed Amtrak’s Stephen Gardner to explain how Amtrak has improved training programs for crew members in the aftermath of the DuPont derailment.  

Watch the exchange HERE.

Background:

Following the 2008 collision between a freight and commuter train in Chatsworth, California, that killed 25 people and injured 125 people, Congress mandated that railroads implement Positive Train Control, or PTC, on tracks used for intercity passenger rail, commuter passenger rail, or certain hazardous materials. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 41 railroads are required to implement PTC on approximately 60,000 miles of the national railroad network. PTC is technology designed to prevent certain types of railroad accidents like train-on-train collisions and overspeed derailments. The deadline for implementation is December 31, 2018.

Three days after the derailment near DuPont, Senator Murray and 14 of her Senate colleagues requested updates from Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on PTC implementation. Read the letter HERE.

In a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in January, Senator Murray and others stressed that implementing PTC must be a top priority for the agency, and that it was “imperative that FRA conduct vigorous oversight of the data provided by railroads and use all tools within the FRA’s authority to ensure that all railroads complete full PTC implementation by the deadline.” Read that letter HERE.