NTSB Recommendations Following Two Train Accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued three urgent safety recommendations, acting upon the agency’s findings in two ongoing railroad accident investigations.

The Federal Railroad Administration received one urgent safety recommendation based on NTSB findings in the agency’s investigation of the Feb. 4, 2018, collision of an Amtrak train and a CSX train near Cayce, South Carolina. The conductor and engineer of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision.

The NTSB issued two urgent safety recommendations to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority based on findings from its investigation of the June 10, 2017, Long Island Rail Road accident in which a roadway worker died near Queens Village, New York.

In the investigation of the train collision in Cayce, South Carolina, investigators found that on the day before the accident, CSX personnel suspended the traffic control signal system to install updated traffic control system components for the implementation of positive train control. The lack of signals required dispatchers to use track warrants to move trains through the work territory.

In this accident, and a similar accident March 14, 2016, Granger, Wyoming accident, safe movement of the trains, through the signal suspension, depended upon proper switch alignment.  That switch alignment relied on error-free manual work, which was not safeguarded by either technology or supervision, creating a single point of failure.

The NTSB concludes additional measures are needed to ensure safe operations during signal suspension, and so issued an urgent safety recommendation to the Federal Railroad Administration seeking an emergency order directing restricted speed for trains or locomotives passing through signal suspensions when a switch has been reported relined for a main track.

The two urgent safety recommendations to the MTA call for MTA to audit LIRR’s use of “train approach warning” for worker protection, and, to implement corrective action for deficiencies found through the audit.