• Four of six trains to be removed from Amtrak Cascades service after NTSB recommendation

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    The State of Washington will soon remove the type of older train from Amtrak Cascades service that crashed in 2017, killing three people.

    Officials made that announcement late Wednesday, a day after a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which said the trains do not meet current safety standards that require stronger passenger cars better able to withstand crashes.

    Of the six Amtrak Cascades trains that run between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C, four are Talgo Series VI trains, in service since 1999.

    The NTSB found the adjoined train cars broke apart and wheel units flew around like missiles and recommended they be discontinued as soon as possible.

    At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, NTSB officials said they had received no response from Amtrak about their plans for continuing to use the trains.

    Amtrak also didn't answer a similar question from KIRO 7 on Wednesday.

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    Officials with the Washington State Department of Transportation, which funds Amtrak Cascades along with Oregon, initially said they needed time to review the NTSB recommendations.

     

    Hours after KIRO 7 inquired of Gov. Jay Inslee's office, his spokeswoman responded that "the governor believes that public safety is the highest priority in this situation."

    WSDOT officials then sent a new statement saying the trainsets would be removed from service "as soon as possible."

    "Amtrak is working with WSDOT to determine how to address equipment needs moving forward and how we'll provide Amtrak Cascades service without the Talgo Series 6 trains," the statement said. 

    "Evaluating what alternative passenger equipment is available and how scheduled train service in the Pacific Northwest is affected will inform our next steps."

    Officials did not say when the older trains will be removed from service.

    Talgo Series VI trains began service just before the Federal Railroad Administration increased the requirements for the structure of train cars.

    A KIRO 7 story from 2000 detailed how the FRA considered taking the trains out of service.

    Instead, regulators granted an exemption, the only such one in the country.

    NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy suggested regulators allowed the trains to operate knowing what could happen in a high-speed crash like the one in DuPont.

    "They knew exactly what could be coming," she said.

    Rail safety expert Keith Millhouse said the operators of Amtrak Cascades should probably try to lease railcars from somewhere else.

    "Given the NTSB's criticism of these cars and their structure, it's probably not appropriate to continue to operate them at high speeds, so the first thing you could do immediately is slow the system down," Millhouse said.

    WSDOT officials say replacing each trainset would cost $25 million.

    Two of the Talgo VI trains are owned by WSDOT and two are owned by Amtrak.
     

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