CBS Suggests Trump Administration Is to Blame for Deadly Amtrak Derailment

With the investigation into the cause of the deadly Amtrak train derailment in Tacoma, Washington still ongoing, on Tuesday CBS Evening News placed the blame on the Trump administration, claiming they were the ones putting off the implementation of the proper safety regulations. Their accusations came amid reports that both the train and the track were equipped with the required positive train control system (PTC), but weren’t activated.

After beginning his report with a demonstration of how PTC worked, Transportation Correspondent Kris Van Cleave recalled “this deadly 2008 accident in California prompted Congress to mandate PTC by the end of 2015. But that year, just months after the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, Congress voted to delay the deadline until 2018.

People have died as a result of that extension,” exclaimed former National Transportation Safety Board Chair Mark Rosenker to Van Cleave. That was then followed up with Van Cleave lamenting how “this year the Trump administration has five times delayed a requirement for passenger railroads to develop a system-wide safety plan, and it has abandoned rules for stricter sleep apnea testing despite a series of deadly crashes and against NTSB recommendations.

Van Cleave then turned to Matthew Lehner, a spokesperson for President Obama’s Federal Railroad Administration, to smear the current Presidency. “Some of the actions by this administration are definitely moving us backward and not forward on having a safer rail system,” he claimed.

 

 

And in closing out his report, Van Cleave seemed to cast doubt the administration’s explanations for their actions on certain train regulations:

Now, the current Department of Transportation explained its decisions this way. In terms of those safety plans, they say they needed more time to review comments. With reference to sleep apnea, they said they felt existing safety programs and other regulations would be sufficient.

There was no equal blame distributed the Obama administration for the deadly train derailments that occurred under his watch and could have been prevented by PTC. The most notable was the May 12, 2015, Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, which led to the death of eight people and left more than 200 injured. There was also a September 2016 incident in Hoboken, New Jersey in which the train rocketed into the station, derailed, and went up onto the platform, killed one and injured 108 others.

Van Cleave’s anti-Trump focus seemed oblivious to anchor Jeff Glor’s lead-in: “Technology does exist that could have prevented that crash. Amtrak and all big passenger railroads were supposed to have it in place two years ago. That didn't happen.” That put it squarely during the Obama administration.

Transcript below:

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CBS Evening News
December 19, 2017
6:35:42 PM Eastern

JEFF GLOR: Technology does exist that could have prevented that crash. Amtrak and all big passenger railroads were supposed to have it in place two years ago. That didn't happen. Here's transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave.

[Cuts to video]

KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Amtrak 501 came into this curving stretch of track at nearly triple the posted speed limit, a scenario positive train control is designed to prevent.

So, you're confident this would prevent a train going too fast around a curve?

AMTRAK REP.: Yes, that's correct.

CLEAVE: PTC uses censors along the track the communicate with locomotives. Amtrak showed us how the technology takes over a speeding train.

If you accelerate now, it won't let you?

AMTRAK REP.: It won’t. I have—you see traction is locked. I can’t do it. So even if I try—See there is full power, I have no power because the brakes are applied.

CLEAVE: This deadly 2008 accident in California prompted Congress to mandate PTC by the end of 2015. But that year, just months after the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, Congress voted to delay the deadline until 2018. Now only about 40 percent of passenger locomotives have PTC installed.

MARK ROSENKER: People have died as a result of that extension.

CLEAVE: Mark Rosenker was the chair of the NTSB in 2008.

ROSENKER: Railroads basically went to Congress and said: “We're not going to operate unless we get relief.” You couldn't just stop America's railroads. Congress caved in.

CLEAVE: This year the Trump administration has five times delayed a requirement for passenger railroads to develop a system-wide safety plan, and it has abandoned rules for stricter sleep apnea testing despite a series of deadly crashes and against NTSB recommendations. Matthew Lehner was the Federal Railroad Administration’s spokesman under President Obama.

MATTHEW LEHNER: Some of the actions by this administration are definitely moving us backward and not forward on having a safer rail system.

[Cuts back to live]

CLEAVE: Now, the current Department of Transportation explained its decisions this way. In terms of those safety plans, they say they needed more time to review comments. With reference to sleep apnea, they said they felt existing safety programs and other regulations would be sufficient. Jeff?

GLOR: Kris van cleave, thanks very much.


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