Release #11-14—May 6, 2011
Contact: Sean Jeans-Gail, 202-320-2723
Washington D.C.—The family of Dr. Gary Burch and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) announced this week that Amtrak’s Blair Slaughter—of Westchester, Pennsylvania—would receive the Dr. Gary Burch Memorial Safety Award. The award, which honors individuals who have significantly enhanced rail passenger safety, is sponsored by the family of Dr. Burch, who died in a 1991 passenger train derailment in South Carolina.
As an Industrial Design Manager in Amtrak’s mechanical department, Slaughter developed the G2 (Generation 2) Transfer Bridge to permit the safe and efficient transfer of passengers from train-to-train. When the Acela was launched in 1999, they were equipped with a transfer bridge that could be used to transfer passengers between a disabled train and a rescue train. Employing the bridges allows passengers to avoid the precarious descents, ascents, and uneven terrain. However, it was discovered during the course of operations that the original bridge had critical flaws that limited that transfer of wheelchair-bound and disabled passengers.
Slaughter employed his extensive expertise to come up with an American With Disabilities Act-compliant next-generation bridge, soliciting input from both his fellow employees and potential users. He worked closely with the impacted workers in the United Transportation Union to ensure the men and women who would oversee the safe transfer of Amtrak’s passengers were involved the design process and prototype testing.
“Blair Slaughter has shown a true commitment to the safety of all passengers, whatever their mobility” said Michael Burch, son of Gary Burch, at NARP’s congressional reception on May 3. “My family applauds the work he has done for Americans with disabilities.”
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), in whose district Slaughter lives, was on hand to congratulate him. Meehan spoke movingly of his visits with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed and noted that these people will be among those who benefit most from Slaughter’s work.
The G2 Transfer Bridge is carried aboard most Northeast Corridor Amtrak trains, where it allows approximately 1,000-1,200 passengers per week safe passage, reducing risk for the train crews responsible for their safety.
The Burch family established the $1,000 award in 1994 and has sponsored it ever since. A list of previous winners can be found here on NARP’s website.
About the National Association of Railroad Passengers
NARP is the only national organization speaking for the users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by over 22,000 individual members.