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Nothing like a train wreck to capture the conversation. Over the past few days, the Montana Amtrak derailment is the first thing people are talking about with me.
The investigation is only just starting and there is no obvious cause. The train wasn’t speeding. It couldn’t because that main line is equipped with PTC which will slow or stop the train if it is in violation of its limits. The derailment happened close but prior to a switch. That suggests either a broken rail or something broke on the train car. A freight train had passed 80 minutes prior without incident. Track is inspected twice a week and had been inspected 2 days prior. “We’re not ruling anything out at this point,” National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg told the media yesterday. The NTSB is the respected federal agency that investigates transportation crashes. Eight of the ten cars left the tracks, some rolling over. Cars stayed intact instead of crumpling like an automobile crash. Of 141 passengers on board, 7 were hospitalized and 3 killed.
Compared to driving, the train is 10 times safer. That is because the railroad is a controlled environment where running a red signal would be a career ending offense.
In this crash 98% of passengers survived, not something you’d expect in a car or airplane. Still, when life is cut short it is distressing. The families and everyone involved have our sympathy.
Over the years railroads have become safer. Risks have been identified and mitigated. The investigation, like those that have come before it will look for lessons to prevent future accidents.
In Vermont the railroad contracted with a service that monitors and forecasts weather risk after a Montrealer derailment decades ago at a washed out culvert. More recently rock slide detectors were installed after the Vermonter hit a boulder.
When something happens, you naturally think twice. I will tell you that I do trust the railroaders and the fundamental nature of the system. I cannot say that about other drivers on the road, nor even road design. When arriving by train I feel more relaxed without the low level anxious concentration of defensively anticipating what the idiots might do in front of me.
This is a sobering topic. As a society we aren’t good at understanding and comparing risks. We just want to feel secure. Hopefully thinking it out helps.
I wish for you, the ability to relax and enjoy your trip . . . safely.
_ (Your donation supports our continued advocacy for better trains in Vermont. Thank You)_
Wishing you the best,
Christopher Parker Executive Director
(802) 536-4607 railvermont.org/civicrm/?civiwp=CiviCRM&q=civicrm/mailing/url&u=279&qid=23640
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PO BOX 6094 RUTLAND, VT 05702-6094 United States

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