Last night, January 3rd, an Amtrak train in Savannah, Georgia derailed. The train was carrying 311 passengers, with the derailment specifically affecting two sleeper cars. Luckily, the rest of the cars remained upright, and no passengers were injured. The train was about 1000 yards away from the station and was traveling at a relatively low speed.
The brutal winter weather along the East Coast was a factor in the derailment, and passengers onboard the train were told that the crew would proceed with caution. Passenger Barbara Dee told News3, “we had to go backwards because the tracks were icy. They said we were going to go past Savannah station, then we were going to back into it. And […] the last car on the train derailed.”
The crew had knowledge that a switch on the track had frozen over at the Savannah station, but believed the station would be safe as long as they were careful. The resulting derailment meant that emergency responders had to haul their gear through the snow in 23 degree temperatures to assist stranded passengers.
Amtrak has faced problems with their trains before, with the Federal Railroad Administration reporting that Amtrak suffers approximately two derailments per month. Those derailments account for about a quarter of the accidents that the FRA records.
The Washington Post ran a detailed report in 2015, stating that between 2000 and 2014, Amtrak suffered 2000 accidents either involving train rides or passengers struck by trains, with a reported 222 deaths. There have been approximately eight to nine major incidents involving Amtrak since 2015, and just before Christmas there was a deadly derailment in Tacoma, Washington.
Amtrak released a statement in 2016 saying that it has been a “safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers,” and that they have a strong record. However, the statement also added that “we need to assess how we can get better.”
We’re glad no one was hurt in the most recent incident, and we hope this is the last derailment news we hear for a long time.