The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has released a preliminary report today, regarding the Amtrak derailment at the Philadelphia Frankford Junction on the 12 of May 2015. Basically the report states nothing that was not already known.
The report can be read here.
The final report will be issued by the NTSB later this year.
The proximate cause of the derailment was excessive speed. Why the train was going 106 miles per hour (170 kilometers per hour) in a 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour) zone is still unknown.
One of the major questions which has arisen is, whether or not the train engineer was using his mobile telephone at the time of the accident. The other one is whether or not the train engine windshield had been hit by a missile, either a rock or a bullet.
As far as the first question is concerned I find this baffling. After three weeks the NTSB still does not know whether or not the engineer's mobile telephone was used? That is hard to swallow. I can log into my mobile telephone account and my usage is available on line immediately after the fact, time and date stamped.
It is the same with using the "texting" feature on my mobile telephone:
The NTSB has the event recorder from the locomotive and has already evaluated that data. What would be so difficult and why would it take over three weeks to corrolate the data from the recorder with the mobile telephone records?
Amtrak has now installed ACSES (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System) on that part of the Northeast Corridor. ACSES is a varient of positive train control technology, designed to prevent accidents like the one at Frankford Junction. Read here how ACSES functions.
Amtrak is the national passenger railroad here in the US. Generally it operates it's long distance trains on tracks owned by one of the US freight railroads. However the "Northeast Corridor" from Washington DC to Boston and the "Keystone Service" from Philadelphia to Harrisburg PA are owned and maintained by Amtrak itself.
Both of those are high speed and high frequency train routes. That of course begs the question: Why is there no ACSES installed on the entire Northeast Corridor when trains are permitted a top speed of 135 miles an hour on parts of this route?