Letter: Inadequate Management

Amtrak portrays a clear and present danger to the traveling public with their inadequate vetting and training procedures and nowhere is it more evident than in the recent rash of operator error disasters.

How many more lives will be lost due to the arrogance of Amtrak management, who historically have ignored input from their now dwindling veteran operations workforce? If one were to quiz today’s operations employees, one would be astounded at what they don’t know.

The warning signs have been there and Amtrak has paid no heed, despite repeated pleas from their veteran workforce.

Here are some of the warning signs Amtrak ignored:

  • June 3, 2011: Amtrak train collides with Chicago Metra train, 12 hurt
  • October 13, 2011: Amtrak San Joaquin collides with Coast Starlight, 17 injured
  • Nov. 2013: Amtrak had a New York to Washington Regional train accept the wrong route and wander six miles in the wrong direction to the end of the line on a foreign railroad.
  • May 12, 2015: Amtrak train 188 derails due to excessive speed, 8 killed and 200 injured
  • April 3, 2016: Amtrak train hits company backhoe, 2 killed and 39 injured
  • July 6, 2016: Amtrak train arrives Charlottesville an hour and 45 minutes late after accepting wrong route towards Richmond.
  • December 12, 2017: Amtrak Cascades train 501 derails, 3 killed and 77 injured

All of the above are attributed to human error, yet Amtrak still made no changes to its vetting and training procedures.

The public outcry for Positive Train Control is not the be all to end all. It creates dependency and erodes what skills the engineer (operator) might possess.


Positive Train Control can and will fail, and a good percentage of engineers will become “lost.” Couple that with Amtrak’s inadequate vetting and training procedures, and you have a prescription for disaster—a “perfect storm,” if you will.

Nothing precludes proper training and Amtrak seems incapable of providing it.

What will it take for Amtrak to review and assess its hiring and training procedures? More death and injuries? Amtrak is in dire need of oversight from experienced operations personnel. Something must be done soon.

Joseph McMahon

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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