Update on Upper Darby SEPTA Crash
February 2, 2018
This past August, two SEPTA trains collided into one another at the 69th street station in Upper Darby, resulting in a massive train accident. At least 33 people were injured and required medical treatment. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the accident and has not made an official statement; according to managerial staff at SEPTA, there were protective measures in place that were intended to prevent crashes like this one from happening.
The crash was the result of a single car-train hitting into an empty one that was stopped at the 69th street terminal. At least one passenger claimed that the train operator appeared to be “rushed” and that the train seemed like it was speeding towards the end of the terminal before the collision happened. This passenger filed a lawsuit against SEPTA because of the accident as well as injuries he claims he sustained, but neither the transportation agency nor the NTSB has yet confirmed if speed was a factor in the crash.
Although the NTSB and SEPTA have not confirmed that the train was speeding before colliding with the empty passenger car, the speed limits on the tracks approaching 69th street have been changed. Now SEPTA requires a 30 mph speed limit for trains a few minutes out from the station and a 15 mph one after reaching a signal marking the 69th street terminal. Because the speed limits were changed after the accident, it appears as if SEPTA may be trying to prevent future accidents from occurring. And indeed, a SEPTA spokesperson called this move a “proactive measure”.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit against SEPTA not only claims that the train – along with its operator – appeared “rushed”, but also that the train overshot other stops before the accident. According to the individual’s attorney, the train passed one stop, had to reverse to pull up to it, and may have missed another stop completely before the plaintiff boarded. When the crash occurred, the plaintiff was knocked unconscious; his suit alleges that he sustained a concussion as a result.
After the crash, Pennsylvania representative Robert Brady proposed a temporary end to service on the line. Rep. Brady expressed frustration over the lack of answers and said that a continuing investigation is not what helps keep passengers safe, answers and solutions are. Officials from SEPTA have said there is no information that warrants a shutdown of the line, so service is still up and running. In other words, even with no changes made and no real answers as to how and why this accident occurred, business for SEPTA is continuing as usual.
Most train lines have protective systems in place to limit the number of preventable accidents that occur. The one that the Norristown line is equipped with is called an automatic train control – or ATC – system. According to a chief engineering officer with SEPTA, ATC systems have five essential functions. They are:
- Maintaining a safe space between trains;
- Preventing speeding;
- Ensuring full stops at all signals;
- Issuing alerts to trains when there are broken rails, and:
- Keeping railway workers safe
Although the train in question had an ATC system in place at every point along its 13.4-mile route, all SEPTA officials have said so far is that conditions at the end of the line may have affected the system’s effectiveness. Commuters and locals will not have answers on why the crash occurred until the NTSB reveals its complete findings.
Some important questions are why this crash happened, if the automatic train control system functioned properly and what SEPTA could have done to better protect the lives and physical wellbeing of the commuters and workers. This is not the first crash that has happened in the Philadelphia area and it is not the first time that getting answers on exactly what transpired has taken awhile. Just months before the August collision, multiple cars collided into one another at 69th street and 4 people sustained injuries.
Although SEPTA does have positive train control (PTC) systems along some portions of its train lines (such as some of the regional rail routes), there are none in place along the Norristown route. Positive train control systems are often considered more technologically advanced and superior in respect to overall protection. Whether or not SEPTA will update the Norristown train line with PTC systems remains unknown.
A preliminary report from the NTSB indicated that the tracks were wet on the day of the crash – but that the train’s operator had received no report of slippery rails. According to SEPTA, slippery rails alerts aren’t issued unless several complaints have already been received. Although the NTSB has not yet released a full report or indicated the probable cause of the accident, we hope to get more answers in the upcoming months and will continue to keep you updated on this developing story.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
If you or a loved one was injured in the Upper Darby SEPTA train crash, please contact our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading, and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.