*Watch Committee Testimony*
WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 3, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today raised questions about train engineer fatigue and the impact of Amtrak’s proposed 12-hour work schedules at an oversight hearing on the May 12, 2015, Amtrak accident, which killed 8 passengers and injured more than 200. Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) were witnesses at the hearing.
Norton noted that the emphasis has been on positive train control (PTC), which automatically slows or stops speeding trains, but cautioned that PTC is not a silver bullet, and quoted from FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg’s testimony that most train accidents are caused by human error. Norton also cited BLET President Dennis Pierce’s testimony on the impact of variable work schedules, “poor lineup information” and “surprise call for work” on fatigue. Pierce responded that route changes and difficulties associated with unpredictable work schedules are frequent on freight lines and that passenger and freight share tracks throughout the country, which can lead to unsafe conditions. NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in response to a question from Norton that NTSB will be looking at fatigue in its review of the accident. Hart added that when NTSB reviews the impact of long shifts, it will look at science-based fatigue management programs.
Following up on a November 2015 letter that Norton sent to Amtrak on proposed work schedule reconfigurations for engineers out of Union Station, Norton asked Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman whether Amtrak would be still be implementing proposed 12-hour work shifts. Boardman responded that Amtrak will not be implementing these 12-hour work shifts. Norton’s November, 25, 2014, letter to Boardman expressed concern about scheduling changes for employees, including a proposal mandating 12-hour shifts with reduced layover time for Train & Engine Service Employees, which was under consideration for Terminal Operations at Union Station and on the Northeast Corridor and included a list of questions on the issue. Amtrak’s December response did not answer Norton’s questions.