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NTSB hearing on deadly SC train crash grills train companies

CAYCE, SC (WSPA) - CBS news released brand new video of a deadly train collision near Columbia SC, on the same day as a federal hearing on the crash.

February 4, 2018, an engineer and a conductor died and more than 90 passengers and crew were hurt when the Amtrak train crashed into a parked CSX freight train.

The investigation is still far from over but Tuesday we got a better understanding of new safety procedures that may prevent future tragedy.

"The focus has definitely been on CSX," said Abbeville native Tom Howie with Rail Training and Consulting.  He watched the hearing online and gave us his take on today's questioning.

"It was CSX's territory, CSX's rules and in all likely hood there's some man failure on the part of CSX that contributed significantly to the accident," said Howie.

He said what stood out most was the NTSB Chairman's focus on CSX's management culture and his suggestion that trains should be required to slow down after a switch has been relined, especially during an upgrade that had signals offline.

"Do you believe that the next train through should approach at restricted speed," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwait asked Matthew Meadows with CSX.

"When we looked at the that operation, we looked at that suggestion, that is where we developed the new lock, the placement of the signal lock versus a CSX conductor lock on the switch," said Meadows. 

Amtrak made it clear it now requires trains to slow down after a track switch.

A preliminary investigation found a CSX conductor had likely failed to switch the tracks back to the mainline. What's worse, the signals that would have alerted the Amtrak train were down for scheduled upgrades.

Howie says this crash and many more could be prevented through the use of  Positive Train Control that would remotely stop a train that's speeding or off track. 

"If Positive Train Control had been in affect, none of that scenario would have been in place at all," said Howie.

The Positive Train Control discussion did not come up at the hearing.  It was actually a Federal mandate from three years ago but one that has been unfunded and so not widely adopted.  

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