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Pierce County Crash: Were The Tracks Fitted With Automatic Braking?

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As more information regarding the deadly Pierce County train accident surfaces, we begin to obtain more information on what the investigation has uncovered.

According to USA Today, the Amtrak collision south of Seattle took place on tracks that had been fitted with automatic braking equipment that had already been installed but not yet fully tested. But Business Insider contends that, perhaps, the tracks for the new route hadn’t been fitted with the technology just yet, making it impossible to have been in use at the time of the accident.

A spokesperson for the Washington Department of Transportation told BuzzFeed that the actual train that derailed had the PTC technology installed but that it had not been certified for use.

Congress has required that all railroads are equipped with automatic braking by the end of 2018. But train 501, which was going at 80 miles per hour in a curve posted for 30 mph, derailed while traveling on tracks that may have not been fitted with automatic braking while carrying 85 passengers. At least three people have died as a result while dozens of others were injured.

The technology known as “Positive Train Control,” which cost billions of dollars, allows tracks, trains, and dispatch centers to exchange signals that will slow down or even stop trains at certain stretches if engineers aren’t responding promptly. Congress stipulated a deadline to have all railroads add this technology to their tracks after the 2008 deadly collision in Chatsworth, California, which involved a freight train and a commuter train that took the lives of 25 people.

After that tragic accident, safety advocates argued that automated braking technology could have saved the victims’ lives.

According to an Amtrak spokesman, the Positive Train Control equipment was still in testing, so it hadn’t been activated prior to the latest train accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the Pierce County train crash is looking into whether the high rates of speed were to blame for the accident and if any other factors were also at play.

The investigation should be ongoing for the next months.

We will keep you posted on any new details regarding this horrific crash.