A CSX conductor and conductor trainee died in a 2017 accident after they were struck by an Amtrak train while walking on active track, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced in a report yesterday.
The accident, which occurred June 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C., prompted the NTSB to issue a safety alert calling on railroads to prohibit employees from walking or working too closely to adjacent track of another railroad unless the employees are protected by communication between the two railroads.
The investigation determined the CSX workers walked south to the left of their freight train, on the closer of two adjacent Amtrak tracks, after checking on a rail-car problem. They then were struck by the train, according to the report.
Contributing to the accident was the workers' likely focus on the lights and sounds of a northbound Amtrak train approaching them on the far-left track, and their failure to realize that another Amtrak train was coming from behind them at nearly the same time, NTSB officials determined.
NTSB investigators learned from interviews that many railroad workers found it easier to walk on track crossties than on ballast alongside the track. Although the conductors were aware the two Amtrak tracks were active, they may have chosen this more comfortable way to walk back to the front of their train because no Amtrak trains had passed through the area for about an hour, agency officials said.
“Walking on active railroad tracks without protection is dangerous and wrong,” said Robert Hall, director of the NTSB’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials, in a press release. “Walking on another company's tracks without protection is even more dangerous.”