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May 20, 2015

Unions: More funding and crews could have helped prevent Amtrak crash

Rail unions argue for two engineers at the control of passenger trains

Two unions representing railroad workers issued statements concerning the Amtrak derailment that killed eight and injured over 200 in Philadelphia.

Railroad Worker's United released a statement Tuesday blaming inadequate funding for Amtrak not taking proper safety precautions. The union referenced positive train control (PTC), a speed control system mandated by Congress to be implemented by the end of 2015 but was not in use where the accident occurred during the time of the wreck. 

The union also said engineer Brandon Bostian, the lone engineer of the train who entered the curve at around twice the track's speed limit at more than 100 m.p.h. should not have been alone. The initial statement did not speculate as to why Bostian was speeding, but did say another engineer could have helped prevent the tragedy: 

...had there been a second crew member in the cab of the locomotive that day, it is very likely that such a second qualified crew member would have taken action to prevent the tragedy that – for whatever reason – the engineer at the controls was not able to avert.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the union also said Bostian's shift the day of the accident had been "grueling," and that he only had an hour to rest after his last shift before the wreck. An March 23 Amtrak schedule change nixed the normal practice of 90 minute breaks between shifts, according to reports. 

Amtrak officials said they revisit workers' schedules periodically to find inefficiencies and ensure safety regulations are met.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen also released a similar statement Tuesday expressing concerns over one-man train crews and the lack of PTC at the accident site. Their statement drew parallels between the two, citing funding as an issue: 

Contrary to what some in government may say, the only place that crew size and PTC do connect is when it comes to funding. That is especially true in the case of Amtrak, because the government has woefully underfunded Amtrak since its inception.

Neither statement speculated on the direct cause of the derailment, as the NTSB and FBI are still investigating the incident. That investigation includes combing through Bostian's phone records to see if he used his device while operating the train. 

For complete coverage of the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, click here