February 8, 2018 / 7:50 PM / 2 months ago

Amtrak CEO to testify before U.S. House in wake of accidents

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson will testify next week before a U.S. House of Representatives panel on the adoption of anti-crash technologies in the wake of a number of fatal accidents involving the U.S. passenger railroad.

An Amtrak spokesman said Anderson will appear on Feb. 15 before a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee panel.

The committee said it would hear from Amtrak, federal agencies, private rail operators, public transit and labor to discuss efforts to implement an anti-crash technology called positive train control, or PTC, that could have prevented numerous train accidents.

Anderson, a former Delta Air Lines CEO, was named president and co-CEO of Amtrak in June and took over as sole CEO on Jan. 1.

Congress mandated the implementation of PTC nationwide by the end of 2015, then extended that deadline until the end of 2018, but many railroads are lagging. PTC is designed to prevent derailments and crashes caused by excessive speed.

Anderson said on Sunday that Amtrak is a leader in adding PTC and is pushing government leaders “to fully support the PTC deadline.”

Amtrak has faced a number of challenges, including safety concerns and proposed funding cuts. The railroad has been involved in three high-profile fatal crashes since December, though Anderson said Amtrak is not to blame for two.

On Sunday, Amtrak blamed a crash in South Carolina on CSX Corp, which owns and operates the tracks where a switch was padlocked in a position that steered an Amtrak train onto a siding where it crashed into an unoccupied CSX train, killing two people and injuring more than 100.

In November, the National Transportation Safety Board criticized what it called Amtrak’s “weak safety culture” after finding that unsafe conditions led to an Amtrak train’s striking a backhoe working on tracks in Pennsylvania, killing two maintenance workers.

On Tuesday, two cars separated on a high-speed Acela train in Maryland without injury. Amtrak said inspection of all Acela trains found no defects.

Last week, an Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers struck a garbage truck in Virginia that had driven around safety gates.

In December, an Amtrak train derailed near Seattle, killing three. The engineer told investigators he misread a signal shortly before the incident.

In December, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao urged railroads and transit agencies to take action to meet PTC deadlines. Since then, Federal Railroad Administration officials have held meetings with top officials at about 30 railroads and transit agencies. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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