NJT train crashes at Hoboken Terminal

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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(Updated Sept. 30, 9:35 AM EDT) One person died and 108 were injured, some of them critically, when an NJ Transit train crashed through an end-of-platform bumping block and into the train concourse in Hoboken Terminal just before 9:00 AM on Thursday, Sept. 29.

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“At approximately 8:45 AM, train no. 1614, a Pascack Valley line departure from Spring Valley operating to Hoboken, struck the Hoboken Terminal building on Track 5,” NJ Transit said in a statement.

Train 1614, with a Comet V cab car on the head end, departed from Spring Valley at 7:23 AM and was due to arrive in Hoboken at 8:38 AM. The cab car came to a halt between the terminal’s indoor waiting area and the end of the platform. A metal and glass train shed collapsed. Most of the injuries occurred in the lead car or to people struck by collapsing debris inside the station. Many people were trapped on the train or in the debris. The single fatality was a woman in her 30s who was on the platform.

The cause of the wreck is unknown; as of late Thursday, neither the Federal Railroad Administration or the National Transportation Safety Board had communicated any preliminary findings. One eyewitness described the train’s 48-year-old engineer, Thomas Gallagher, a 27-year veteran, as “slumped over the controls,” indicating that he may have become disabled as the train approached the platform. Gallagher was treated at a local hospital and released. He is said to be cooperating with authorities on the investigation.

There has been speculation as to whether Positive Train Control (PTC) would have prevented the wreck. It “might” have, according Railway Age contributor David Schanoes, a retired operating officer who now consults. NJT is in the process of installing PTC system-wide, but does not currently have plans to install it within Hoboken Terminal’s massive and complex interlocking plant. NJT applied for and received from the FRA what is known as a “Main Line Track Exclusion Addendum” (MTEA) to its PTC Implementation Plan (PTCIP) for Hoboken Terminal, where the existing ATC (Automatic Train Control, cab signal with speed control) system enforces an MAS (maximum authorized speed) of 20 mph. PTC would have provided a zero-speed target for the end of the platform, and would have automatically made a penalty brake application if it calculated and determined that the train’s 20 mph-to-0 mph braking curve was insufficient to stop the train just short of the end-of-platform bumping block. ATC does not calculate and enforce braking curves. Click HERE for more information.

NJT’s form of PTC is ASES (Advanced Speed Enforcement System) II, a transponder-based technology similar to and fully compatible and interoperable with Amtrak’s ACSES (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System) employed on the Northeast Corridor. ASES, according to Schanoes, would not necessarily need to be deployed throughout Hoboken Terminal’s entire interlocking plant. It could be deployed for the platform tracks only, with transponders installed in positions where they would enforce the 20 mph-to-0 mph distance for the heaviest train.

The fact that approximately half the length the 85-foot Comet V cab car breached the platform before coming to a stop indicates it was traveling no faster than the 20 mph MAS. Any faster, and the train would have traveled much further into the station. It is not known at this time if the emergency brake was applied by anyone on board 1614, passengers or train crew, or if there was any equipment failure. Only the cab car’s event recorder data will shed light on what exactly caused the wreck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Commuter/Regional, News, Safety Tags: , , ,