Could Rock Slide Fences Prevent Derailments?

Transportation officials are trying to determine whether or not special fences that are used to protect railroad tracks from rock slides in some parts of the country might also be used in Vermont.

The Amtrak train known as The Vermonter had been carrying 98 passengers and four crew members when it hit rocks that had fallen from a ledge onto the tracks approximately 20 miles south of Montpelier. The derailment caused the locomotive and the first car to go off the rails and down an embankment.

Amtrak CEO, Joseph Boardman said in a recent interview that he was uncertain whether such special fences would be effective in Vermont, but after a recent derailment that left seven people injured, it is something definitely worth looking at.

Currently, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the derailment. Boardman given the circumstances, the investigation could take time.

“They will make recommendations once they find out, confirm the reasons for this derailment, of something that will help,” he said.

The most severely injured person aboard The Vermonter had been a conductor along with the engineer. Both were released from the hospital early last week.

Boardman said he felt “very blessed and thankful” none of the injuries was more severe.

Federal safety rules for tracks that carry passengers require at least two inspections every week, with at least one day between inspections. A freight train had gone through the area where the Amtrak derailment occurred Sunday night with no problem.

Rock slides are common in Vermont, but most occur in areas where they don’t affect people or property, said state geologist Marjorie Gale.

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