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Missouri Amtrak Train Accident Shines Light on Railway Modernization

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Categorized as Catastrophic Injuries, Personal Injury

Several cars of an Amtrak train going from Los Angeles to Chicago derailed Monday afternoon, June 27. The accident occurred after the train struck a dump truck at a crossing in northern Missouri.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that more than 200 passengers were on board the train at the time of the accident, which was reported at 12:45 p.m. near Mendon. The patrol further reported that two passengers on the railway and one person in the dump truck perished in the collision. A spokesperson with the patrol said that the overall number of wounded was unknown. As of 7:00 p.m. on Monday evening, however, hospitals in Missouri had reported at least 51 patients.

The steep incline and condition of the rural Missouri railroad crossing where the incident took place will be the focal point of the accident inquiry. Former U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo said that National Transportation Safety Board investigators would examine these concerns as they seek to determine why Amtrak’s Southwest Chief train collided with the truck.

Ongoing Railway Finance & Safety Concerns

In addition, the disaster has shed new light on the continuing debate in the United States over railway finance and safety concerns. For example, Positive Train Control (PTC) systems — a collection of technologies meant to automatically stop or slow a train before certain sorts of accidents — were to be deployed in the country’s most extensively trafficked rail lines by the end of 2015.

However, legislators and railroad organizations noted the financial and technical difficulties of equipping the nation’s railroads with such advanced technology. Their arguments raise the issue of how hard it is to implement PTC technology: What developments have occurred since 2008? And regardless of PTC, how safe are America’s railroads?

Passenger railway fatalities remain uncommon compared to motor vehicle fatalities. However, this is partially due to the fact that most people commute by car rather than train. Per the Federal Railroad Association, just five individuals perished in Amtrak incidents between 2005 and 2014. In other words, the number of fatalities in Monday’s accident almost equals the total fatalities over the last decade.

According to official estimates, commuter trains and Amtrak account for less than 0.5 fatalities per billion miles traveled. Meanwhile, vehicles and trucks account for approximately 6 deaths per billion miles.

Implementing Positive Train Control Systems

Missouri Amtrak Train Accident Shines Light on Railway ModernizationAccording to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), experts designed PTC to dodge several types of railway incidents. Among other things, it prevents train-to-train accidents, the passage of a train over a track switch left in the incorrect position, and derailments caused by high speed.

A March 2014 study by the AAR notes the system was expected to be in place on the vast majority of passenger- and hazardous-material-carrying railways in the United States by the end of 2015. This included around 22,500 locomotives and tens of thousands of miles of track.

But there were several issues, starting with resource limitations. Although officials already invested $5 billion to repair tracks throughout the United States, the AAR and other railroad associations said that the sum was insufficient to equip the nation’s railroads with PTC by the deadline.

The AAR observed a number of problems in its assessment. First, there were insufficient professionals with the expertise to design and build the various components of the PTC system. Additionally, there were not enough skilled businesses to construct the necessary improved signal systems. Thousands of railroad personnel also required training to use the new technology.

Concurrently, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $55 billion transportation and housing package. However, the package provided Amtrak with about a fifth less than its regular $1.4 billion contribution. What’s more, it rejected amendments that would have restored or increased the funds.

Still, officials have made some progress. Class I railroads fulfilled the Congressionally required target to have PTC fully operational by the end of 2020. Today, authorities have completely integrated PTC, which is operational on all Class I PTC route miles throughout the network.

However, as Monday’s derailment demonstrates, officials must do more to modernize our country’s aging railway system.

Kansas City Train Accident Lawyer

A railway accident may have catastrophic consequences for anyone affected. As a consequence of such mishaps, victims often sustain life-threatening injuries or perish. Thankfully, if you’ve suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a railway accident, you may have legal remedies.

Seeking an immediate consultation with a Kansas City train accident lawyer might make a significant difference in your prospects of obtaining justice.

If a railway disaster has left you hurt or caused your loved one’s death, you may have options moving forward. Contact our Kansas City train accident attorneys at Peterson & Associates, P.C. now by dialing 816-888-8888 to get your claim started.