Amtrak Service Resumes After Deadly Philadelphia Train Crash - NBC 6 South Florida
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Amtrak Service Resumes After Deadly Philadelphia Train Crash

Push for Transit System Funding

The focus now turns to safety and funding of an aging rail and transit system in the wake of the Amtrak train derailment. NBC10's Tim Furlong has more on the push to get that funding through federal dollars. (Published Monday, May 18, 2015)

At 6:03 a.m. Monday, 10 minutes behind schedule, Amtrak Regional 110 pulled out of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station bound north for New York City.

It is the first train to traverse these tracks since last Tuesday's deadly derailment in Port Richmond killed eight people and injured more than 200 — tracing the path of its ill-fated sibling.

But it did so on newly-laid track outfitted with safety features that federal investigators said could have prevented the high-speed derailment from happening. The northbound tracks around Frankford Junction, the spot where Amtrak Regional 188 leapt off the rails, now employs Automatic Train Control or ATC. This feature will can slow the train to remotely enforce speed limits.

The 50 mph speed limit has also been lowered to 45 mph, a requirement the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) put forth before service could resume.

"I think the message to passengers is that Amtrak is safe to ride," said spokesman Craig Schulz. "We're obviously very pleased to be able to provide service again this morning and we have made the changes the FRA has directed us to make and we'll operate a safe railroad like we have all along."

Train service was suspended for nearly a week between New York and Philadelphia following the crash.

ATC was operating on the southbound lines at the curve, but not on the northbound tracks, Amtrak officials said. The train was traveling at more than 100 mph when it jumped off the tracks, the force sending the passenger cars rolling onto their sides and at least one through steel power poles.

Amtrak Regional 110 took the curve Monday morning at a cautious speed out of an abundance of caution as it turned northbound toward Northeast Philadelphia, an Amtrak spokesperson said. The slow maneuvering added time to the normal hour and a half commute.

"I believe Amtrak wouldn't put us back on this route unless they thought it was safe," said regular passenger Mary Schaheen before boarding the northbound train. "I'm confident."

About 30 minutes before the train departed Philadelphia, another train left New York's Penn Station bound for Philadelphia.

SEPTA began running regional rail trains toward Trenton, New Jersey, once again as well. But that outbound service will be limited — trains will not be stopping in North Philadelphia, Bridesburg or Tacony — and delays could reach upward of 60 minutes.

Restoration work around Frankford Junction is continuing as power lines and other track upgrades are installed.

As the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's busiest line, got back on track Monday morning, the investigation into what led to the derailment continued and a new lawsuit was filed.

The FBI is analyzing whether a grapefruit-sized projectile hit the windshield shortly before the crash. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board want to know whether the impact disoriented engineer Brandon Bostian in the crucial moments when the train should have been slowing down at the curve.

The 32-year-old has no recollection of the incident. A conductor told investigators, however, that she believes Bostian radioed an engineer of a nearby SEPTA regional rail train, which had been hit by an object, letting him know Amtrak 188 was struck.

In an interview with investigators this weekend, the SEPTA engineer said he didn't talk to Bostian. Still, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said his team wants to track down the lead and find out what effect, if any, the object played into the crash.

Some of the most seriously injured passengers filed suit against the railroad on Monday — the second suit since the incident. Five passengers and their spouses are seeking damages for the extreme pain and suffering they endured during the derailment.

Twenty people remain hospitalized, five in critical condition, following the derailment. All are expected to recover from their injuries.

President Barack Obama stopped in Philadelphia on his way to Camden where he's speaking about community policing initiatives Monday afternoon to thank the city's first responder leadership for their quick response to the derailment.

  

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