Exclusive: Derailed Amtrak train was not fitted with latest US safety controls

Philadelphia Amtrak Rails Were Supposed to Get Upgrades

The commuter rail route where an Amtrak train left the track on Tuesday was not governed by an advanced safety technology meant to prevent high-speed derailments, officials familiar with the investigation said on Wednesday.

Positive train control (PTC) automatically slows or even halts trains that are moving too fast or heading into a danger zone. Under current law, the rail industry must adopt the technology by year end.

The cause of Tuesday's crash, in which seven people were killed, has only begun to be investigated. Regulators are examining whether excessive speed led to the derailment on an Amtrak line in Philadelphia, said officials familiar with the investigation.

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Amtrak train crash, derailment, Philadelphia
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Exclusive: Derailed Amtrak train was not fitted with latest US safety controls
Amtrak assistant conductor Brandon Bostian stands by on Aug. 21, 2007 as Sandra Palmer of University City says goodbye to her boyfriend, Clyde Simpson, as he leaves for work in Chicago at the Amtrak station in St. Louis. Bostian was the engineer of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia. (Huy Richard Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed late last night May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least five people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 14: Members of the National Transportation Safety Board gather near the site of the Amtrak train derailment May 14, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Repair crews inspect damages at the site of a train derailment accident May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed yesterday May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least six people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: In this handout image supplied by NTSB, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt works on the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailment on May 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least seven people and injured more than 200. (Photo by NTSBgov via Getty Images)
National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Robert Sumwalt speaks during a press conference regarding the wreckage of the derailed Amtrak Northeast Regional Train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. The engineer of a US passenger train traveling at more than twice the approved limit slammed on the emergency brakes just before it derailed in Philadelphia, leaving at least seven people dead, investigators said. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed yesterday May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least six people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of an Amtrak passenger train carrying more than 200 passengers from Washington, DC to New York that derailed late last night May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least five people were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crash. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers stand near a derailed carriage of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Rescuers on May 13 combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers queue infront of ticketing counters at Union Station on May 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. Witnesses said the front of Amtrak Train 188, heading from Washington DC to New York, shook as it went into a turn and crashed at about 9:30 pm on Tuesday (0130 GMT Wednesday). AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Information screen showing cancelled train services at the Union Station on May 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Service has been interrupted after Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia last night, killing at least six people and injured more than 140. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Injured Amtrak passengers that were bused from to New York from Philadelphia wait at Penn Station May 13, 2015 in New York. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Passengers injured in an Amtrak train derailment who were bused from to New York from Philadelphia, walk through Penn Station May 13, 2015 in New York. Rescuers on Wednesday combed through the mangled wreckage of a derailed train in Philadelphia after an accident that left at least six dead, as the difficult search for possible survivors continued. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Carolan Berkeley (L), who had an Amtrak ticket to go from New York to Washington D.C., waits for a bus from New York to Washington D.C. on May 13, 2015 in New York City. An Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia last night has forced train service to be suspended between New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., causing commuters to use NJ Transit, flights and bus services. The crash killed at least six people and injured dozens more. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
My train crashed
http://t.co/GvooK8lq58
Im on @Amtrak train that just crashed. Im ok. Helping others. Pray for those injured.
@Amtrak @msnbc @NBCNews pray for these passengers. http://t.co/mksZNy7eqo
Amtrak Northeast Regional crashes, was en route to NYC http://t.co/Faz7G48nbf http://t.co/XoLgkdBnHY
#BREAKING - At least 50 hurt in Amtrak derailment in Philly. Live video here: http://t.co/btWPTtn6HM
Multiple injuries reported after Amtrak train #188 from DC to NYC derails in #Philadelphia. Several cars overturned. http://t.co/mHFbLOv3to
Lot's of injuries at the #amtrak derailment. #Pray http://t.co/DADBYAqojg
#Amtrak crash: 50+ people injured http://t.co/IpNb3bkIzp
Amtrak train derailment. http://t.co/fAwU7MFrZC
Live picture of the triage center at 2400 Wheatsheaf for the Amtrak derailment. http://t.co/JL2XuYZfob
EMT helping survivors taking them to the hospital #amtrak #philly http://t.co/SfyFJJjNqO
FBI: nothing indicates that #Amtrak derailment linked to terrorist attack http://t.co/P2as9zyu2S
Video I took moments after crash. People trying to open the door and get off the train. http://t.co/fJ2bxXfmhG
Photos from tonight's Amtrak derailment in Port Richmond http://t.co/DIv1xCk5YU http://t.co/ZzJqcOYPGU
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Amtrak has begun installing components of a PTC system but the network is not yet functioning, federal officials said.

An Amtrak official did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

"A functioning PTC system should prevent this," said Joseph Szabo, who stepped down in January as administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Federal rules require the national rail network to have an operating PTC system by the end of the year, though there has been a legislative push to extend that deadline by years.

In March, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to extend the deadline for implementing PTC until at least 2020. Both Republicans and Democrats supported the measure which will now go to the Senate floor.

"This accident is exhibit A for ending the delays and getting positive train control in place," said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat.

High-traffic areas like Amtrak's Northeast corridor should be early adopters of PTC, said Szabo, though he did not know precisely what kind of technology is in place along that route.

Szabo said PTC control would go as far as override a train conductor who was exceeding posted speed limits.

"If there is a red signal you can't pass it. If there is a speed restriction, it will slow you down," he said of the override system.

The question of PTC, whether it was operating before the crash, would be an important one for investigators, Szabo said.

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