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Feds: Amtrak failed to follow safety rules in fatal train crash

A federal directive issued to Amtrak Wednesday night confirms the rail agency's workers weren't following basic safety rules when a weekend train crash killed two people in Chester.

The directive of action from the Federal Railroad Administration is the first official confirmation that safety rules weren't followed in the Sunday crash.  Specifically, it highlighted concerns about the way personnel working on tracks follow safety standards. It stated both federal regulations and Amtrak's internal rules were not being followed at the time of the crash, according to information provided by a senior FRA official.

In a statement issued Thursday, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman did not dispute the FRA directive and said the company would design a new "internal compliance program" to push for more consistency in protection for rail workers.

Sources with knowledge of the crash near Booth Street have said a communications lapse between changing shifts contributed to the crash. Two veteran Amtrak workers in or near a backhoe directly in the path of an oncoming train were killed. Multiple federal and agency rules and regulations are designed to prevent trains from traveling on tracks occupied by workers and their vehicles.

The FRA ordered Amtrak late Wednesday night to require all railroad maintenance workers and their supervisors to review safety rules applicable to their jobs. The regulatory agency also required Amtrak to review the rules governing communication between rail workers, their foremen and dispatchers. FRA also recommended that the rail agency conduct a similar safety review for all safety sensitive workers.

Amtrak framed the FRA directive as a benefit for the rail company in to Boardman's statement.

"The FRA direction helps us impart the seriousness of following our rules to prevent accidents, injuries and death," he said.

He said Amtrak needed operational standards similar to other high risk work places, such as emergency rooms and an aircraft carrier's flight decks,

"Amtrak is a safe and secure railroad and we will do everything we can to make it even better," he said.

In the case of rail incidents, the FRA conducts its own investigation parallel to one underway from the National Transportation Safety Board. The FRA issued the directive because of information received during its investigation, which is ongoing.