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NEWS
June 19, 2015 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Passenger rail operators working to install an upgraded safety system would get priority for federal grants and loans under a bill introduced Thursday by Sens. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), the top lawmakers on a subcommittee overseeing rail lines. The grant tweaks are part of a measure providing four years of increased funding for Amtrak, and come after the derailment of Train 188 in Philadelphia brought new attention to Positive Train Control, an electronic monitoring system that national safety advocates say could have prevented the crash.
BUSINESS
June 19, 2015 | By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff Writer
Northeast states and transit agencies - including SEPTA and NJ Transit - are being asked to pay more to maintain the heavily traveled rail corridor between Washington and Boston that they share with Amtrak. The new cost-sharing plan for the Northeast Corridor is due to take effect Oct. 1, although Massachusetts has objected. That state is upset about its higher bill and the prospect that the plan "may mark the beginning of a devolution of federal responsibility down to the states.
BUSINESS
June 17, 2015 | By Chris Mondics, Inquirer Staff Writer
Two newlyweds who were injured in the crash of Amtrak Train 188 on May 12 are the latest to sue the rail line and engineer Brandon Bostian in federal district court in Philadelphia, alleging that reckless operation of the train caused its derailment. Declan MacFarland, 34, and Kathryn Varnum, 33, were on their way to New York from Varnum's parents' home in northern Virginia when the train derailed. MacFarland had scheduled a job interview for the following day, and Varnum, an employee of a public relations firm, had intended to confer with a client.
NEWS
June 12, 2015 | By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff Writer
The engineer of Amtrak Train 188 was not talking or texting on his cellphone before the train's deadly derailment at Frankford Junction on May 12, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday. The finding supported statements by the lawyer for engineer Brandon Bostian that the engineer's cellphone was turned off and stowed in his bag during the trip. However, NTSB vice chair Tho "Bella" Dinh-Zarr told a Senate committee Wednesday that investigators have not determined whether the engineer was using an app or the phone for other purposes.
BUSINESS
June 11, 2015 | By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff Writer
In its latest response to the deadly May 12 Amtrak wreck at Frankford Junction in Philadelphia, the Federal Railroad Administration urged passenger railroads to better control train speed approaching tight curves and bridges. The safety advisory on Tuesday recommended that railroads identify locations where the speed limit drops by more than 20 m.p.h. entering the curve or bridge. Railroads should install automatic-braking circuitry at those locations to slow trains if the engineer doesn't, the FRA said.
NEWS
June 10, 2015
ISSUE | EARLY LEARNING Role for mentors I worry when I hear about the city's efforts to expand early-childhood learning that we are heading toward a socialist state in which subsidized child care will remove poor children from their homes to get their mothers into the workforce and off the dole ("Nutter, Kenney trumpet early-childhood learning," June 3). If anything helps at-risk children living in poverty, it is good parenting and a sense of hope. Instead, we're told that the answer is more child learning centers, agencies, day cares, and pre-K.
NEWS
June 4, 2015 | By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff Writer
The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday issued a preliminary report on the deadly crash of Amtrak 188, but did not reveal any new findings. The report does say that the crash - which killed eight passengers and injured more than 200 others - caused damages estimated by Amtrak in excess of $9.2 million. The NTSB, in releasing the report for a Tuesday hearing in Washington by the House transportation committee, reiterated the findings it reported earlier: - The seven-car train was traveling at 106 m.p.h.
NEWS
June 4, 2015 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Staff Writer
WASHINGTON - Members of Congress pointedly questioned federal rail investigators Tuesday over why they still don't know whether the engineer operating Amtrak Train 188 was using his cellphone when it crashed in Philadelphia on May 12. Three weeks later, "I just don't understand what the holdup is," Rep. Barbara Comstock (R., Va.) said at the first congressional hearing into the derailment that killed eight people and injured more than 200. Adding to lawmakers' frustration was that the National Transportation Safety Board has access to the engineer's cellphone and password, but has not nailed down an answer.
NEWS
June 3, 2015 | By Jonathan Tamari, Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Congressional Republicans plan to press Amtrak officials Tuesday on why the rail line did not move faster to install safety upgrades that could have stopped Train 188 before it derailed last month in Philadelphia. Among the key questions expected at a morning hearing on Capitol Hill - the first since the incident that killed eight passengers - are why Amtrak did not devote more resources to activate a new-age safety system, and why an older safety system was only in place on the southbound side of the curve in Port Richmond, and not the northbound side, where the train left the tracks.
NEWS
June 1, 2015 | Inquirer Editorial Board
The fatal derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia, which three weeks ago left eight people dead, has generated a lot of talk about more funding, reorganizing, or privatizing the nation's passenger rail service. But it's likely the talk will produce very little. Periodically, there is talk in Congress about privatizing at least the most successful portion of Amtrak - the 457-mile Northeast Corridor connecting Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. But beyond loud speeches about Amtrak's many deficiencies, there is little movement to accomplish that goal.
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