Growing up in Toronto, I am very familiar with the commute from the suburbs into the city on the GoTrain or the Subway. At the time, I had no concerns or fears over my safety. Stories like we are seeing today in the news about train derailments rarely made the news. Today, it seems they are happening more and more.
From the Lac Megantic train derailment in Quebec, to the Sainte-Basil derailment in New Brunswick, or the Peace River derailment in Alberta, rail transportation has been under the spotlight recently for safety concerns.
Most recently, an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia on the evening of May 12 made headlines as the devastating tragedy killed at least seven and left hundreds injured. This incident has raised hairs on the backs of our necks, leaving us wondering how can a train carrying seven cars jump the tracks leaving passengers, luggage, and debris in shambles.
After analyzing video footage of the accident, it is speculated that the train was barreling around a curve at twice the speed limit. The incident occurred as the train approached a bend in the tracks. According to a statement by the Federal Railroad Administration, ahead of the curve the speed limit is 110km/h with a reduced speed limit of 80km/h along the curve itself. According to expert analysis of the video, the train is believed to have been traveling over 160km/h as it approached the curve.
This leads one to blame the tragedy on human error. How do the engineers allow their locomotive to travel at such high speeds with a blatant disregard for the speed limits?
Statistically, this seems to be a (frightening) trend on the rise. Amtrak trains alone had two derailments in 2012, three in 2013, six in 2014, and already in 2015 there have been nine.
These alarming statistics need to be addressed and require a response. The problem now becomes, how can we, as passengers and citizens, trust our rail transportation systems to travel from point A to point B safely? What will transportation boards do to enforce speed limits, ensure proper function of equipment, and protect the safety of rail transportation? It’s time for something to change, and it shouldn’t take a devastating tragedy to spark that change.