Cantwell Calls for Oversight Hearing on Amtrak, Rail Safety in Aftermath of Recent Derailment Tragedy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) called on Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) to hold an oversight hearing to examine a range of Amtrak safety concerns tragically brought to light earlier this week with the derailment of an Amtrak commuter train in DuPont, Washington.

In her letter, Cantwell, a senior member of the Commerce Committee, wrote that Amtrak’s safety practices and training procedures, as well as Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety regulations, must be scrutinized immediately to protect the travelling public. In all, 91 people have lost their lives and 2,842 have been injured in derailments, collisions, and similar incidents since 2008, according to the FRA.

A copy of the letter can be found below and here.

The Honorable John Thune
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
512 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Bill Nelson
Ranking Member
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
425 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson,

I am writing to request that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hold an oversight hearing on current Amtrak safety standards and training procedures, and the state of federal rail safety regulation as soon as possible when Congress returns in the new year. Following the recent derailment incident in DuPont, Washington, which claimed 3 lives and injured more than 70 people, the traveling public needs to know that Amtrak and its regulator, the Federal Railroad Administration, are doing all they can to protect the safety of passengers who use this vital piece of our transportation infrastructure.

In the last decade alone, train accidents in the United States have taken the lives of dozens of passengers. In 2008, a commuter train sped through a red signal and crashed headlong into a freight train in Chatsworth, California. In New York, a Metro North commuter train derailed in the Bronx in 2013, while another crashed along the Harlem line in February of 2015. Later in 2015, an Amtrak Northeast Regional train derailed in Philadelphia. These events took the lives of 46 people and injured more than 450. Heartbreaking events like these serve as all too frequent reminders that train safety must be a priority issue for our Committee.

Passenger and freight railways remain a critical part of the nation’s transportation network. Millions of Americans depend on rail service each day, and businesses in every corner of our country depend on freight rail to keep commerce running. Therefore, the alarming rate of incidents on our rails is cause for tremendous concern. We should be doing everything in our power to address train safety issues as quickly as possible in order to prevent similar accidents in the future.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.