New Railway Safety Measures to Enforce Speed at Frankford Junction

After deadly Amtrak accident, feds undertaking new effort to enforce rail speed limits along the Northeast Corridor.

AP | Patrick Semansky

AP | Patrick Semansky

Federal railroad officials will take new measures to enforce the speed limit at the Frankford Junction curve where an Amtrak train derailed last month, killing eight people.

The Federal Railway Administration said in a Tuesday announcement it would also examine the entire Northeast Corridor for spots like Frankford Junction where curves require a 20-mph reduction in the speed limit for trains, and to modify the Automatic Train Control system on those trains to ensure the limits are strictly observed.

“Today the FRA is taking a smart and targeted approach to addressing a major issue involved in recent passenger rail accidents,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release accompanying the announcement.

The FRA said it would require the following from Amtrak:

• Immediately implement code changes to Amtrak’s Automatic Train Control (ATC) System to enforce the passenger train speed limit ahead of the curve at Frankford Junction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where the fatal derailment occurred.

• Survey its Northeast Corridor system and identify each main track curve where there is a reduction of more than 20 mph from the maximum authorized approach speed to that curve for passenger trains, and provide a list of each curve location to FRA within 5 days after EO 31 was issued.

• Submit an action plan for FRA approval within 20 days identifying modifications to its ATC System (or other signal systems) that Amtrak will make to enable warning and enforcement of applicable passenger train speeds at the identified curves. If such modifications would interfere with the timely implementation of a Positive Train Control (PTC) system or are not otherwise feasible, Amtrak’s plan must describe alternative procedures that it will adopt at the identified curves to ensure compliance with applicable passenger train speed limits. Amtrak’s plan must contain milestones and target dates for completion of action plan items.

• Within 30 days of issuance of the Order, Amtrak must begin to install additional wayside signage alerting engineers and conductors of the maximum authorized passenger train speed throughout its Northeast Corridor system, with particular emphasis on additional signage at the curve locations where significant speed reductions occur. Amtrak must identify the locations where it intends to install the additional wayside speed limit signs in its action plan, and must notify FRA when installation of the signs is completed.

The full announcement is below.