Happening Now

Rail Passengers Urge Focus on Emergency Response Following Amtrak Derailment in Dupont, Wash.

December 18, 2017

Release #17-18

For Immediate Release (#17-18)

December 18, 2017

Contact: Xenophon Strategies – (202) 289-4001

Rail Passengers Association Expresses Concern for Passengers and Crew

Washington, D.C. – The Rail Passengers Association is closely monitoring the derailment of Amtrak Cascades #501, which occurred in Dupont, Wash., before 8 a.m. PT on December 18. The train was reported to be carrying about 78 passengers and five crew when cars left the track near an overpass over the I-5 interstate highway. Photos and television coverage show that multiple cars derailed, with some blocking the freeway. Emergency responders are treating the incident as a mass casualty event and Rail Passengers Association is aware of at least three fatalities. While passengers on the derailed cars have not yet been identified, many Rail Passenger members and friends were aboard the next train, the #502 on that line.

In response to the accident, Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews said, "As a former first responder, I know first-hand how chaotic and frightening these kinds of incidents can be. It's far too soon to speculate about causes, and our focus right now should be on the victims, their families, and the first responders working the scene. My thoughts are with them at this very difficult time."

The train was not “high-speed” rail, despite reports in the media and online. Typically, high-speed rail operates above 200 to 250 kmh or 125 to 200 mph. The line where the accident occurred, between Seattle to Portland is rated for a top speed of 79 mph, though that section of track may have had other restrictions.

It was the inaugural run of service along the Point Defiance Bypass route between Olympia and Tacoma. This was a multi-year $181 million project led by Washington State to re-route passenger service away from the slower, curvier BNSF track on the Puget Sound shoreline to an existing rail line further inland with less freight congestion.

Washington State Dept. of Transportation has a fact sheet about the project here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/20790BB4-7A4E-44AF-8791-F3A77186A764/0/PtDefiance_March2010.pdf

The NTSB is responding to the incident and will be evaluating an array of possible causes including mechanical, human and other factors.

About the Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association, also known as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, is America’s oldest and largest national rail-and-transit organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger rail. For 50 years, this nonprofit association has worked to support its volunteer members across the nation who advocate for a national rail network, and more and better city-to-city and commuter trains, mass transit and rail connections such as bike share and transit to airports. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.