An Amtrak train derailed on its inaugural Run between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia in Washington State. It was running on a new track with seventy-eight passengers and five crew members on board and the tragedy happened some 64km south of Seattle in the early hours of the morning.

The train had left Seattle at about 6 AM and was due to arrive in Portland after about three-and-a-half hours.

New Zealand Herald reports that at least six people were killed in the derailment when 13 of the 14 carriages derailed and one of them was left dangling on the highway below.

A total of 77 persons have been shifted to nearby hospitals.

The probable reasons

Such an accident on a new track is a matter of concern for the authorities and, they have launched an investigation to ascertain the reasons for the derailment of the Amtrak train.

Among a number of possibilities are the presence of some foreign object on the track or over-speeding of the train or other unexplained reasons. It may be recalled that in a 2015 derailment of Amtrak in Philadelphia, the reason was attributed to the distraction of the driver’s attention by radio transmissions. That was the finding of the National Transportation Safety Board. The speed of the train was more than permissible limits on a curved track and eight people died in that tragedy.

In the case of the latest incident involving the train that left Seattle on the new track, it is difficult to hazard a guess. A report in the media indicated the presence of a broken axle of another train on the track. The speed, according to official figures, was around 130km/h moments before the derailment, when the maximum speed along that stretch is 127km/h.

Train travel must be safe

Chicago Tribune adds that the derailment of the Amtrak train happened when it was on its first ever run on the new route which is a part of a project meant to speed up the service. It was an alternative to another route that used to result in delays due to curves, single-track tunnels and freight traffic in its path.

As per the schedule, the train was to depart from Seattle at around 6 AM and arrive in Portland about 3 1/2 hours later. Officials of the Transportation department have confirmed that extensive testing of the tracks was done before the inaugural run which should have been incident free.

However, that did not happen, and any such tragedy shakes the confidence of the travelers. It is sad when there is an accident of this nature and people find injured persons around them, some of them critical. The authorities must take steps to regain the confidence of the people.