Submitted by David Anderson.
Why does it take a disaster to discover dereliction of duty?
Perhaps because we “live in a pond inhabited by large sharks”, meekly having subscribed to our subservient role as obedient customers in a world of corporate giants and government greed.
“The Ethics Gap” by Joseph W. Cotchett with Stephen P. Pizzo, is subtitled “Greed and the Casino Society, The Erosion of Ethics in Our Professions, Business and Government.” The book is dedicated to the small fish in the shark-invested pool who happen to believe the richest and most powerful giants too often “have lost their compass and become servants of greed.”
These giants do not always initially appear however, as fee-fi-fo-fum ogres who smell the blood of an Englishman – or blood in the water – but more as those described by Orwell, their ‘words falling upon the facts like soft snow, blurring their outlines and covering up all the details’ (John Pilger’s introduction to “Tell Me No Lies.”)
Until the train goes off the rails.
As the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, D.C. continues to investigate the December 18, 2017 Amtrak Cascades derailment just south of our community of Tillicum, Washington, a horrific crash of a train on its inaugural run that made international news as it took three lives and injured 62 others, some of what we’re now learning, according to a July 10 article by Mike Lindblom in The Seattle Times:
Didn’t see the sign, going too fast. The engineer of the train traveling at 80 mph on a 30-mph curve, “tried in vain to see a speed-limit sign – a small amber, diagonal sign, some two miles before the curve.”
Hadn’t been that way but once. The engineer had made only “one southbound training run in the new corridor between Lakewood and Nisqually.”
Unfamiliar locomotive. The engineer “told investigators about a last-minute change in locomotives.”
“The NTSB speculated his peripheral vision was hindered within the unfamiliar locomotive.”
Brakes weren’t used. “Event-recorder data say emergency brakes weren’t applied before the December crash.”
Crowded cab. Michael DeCataldo, vice president of Amtrak operations, “admitted that as many as seven people rode in the front cab last year during night practice trips, exceeding Amtrak standards, in the Lakewood-Nisqually area.”
No alarms. “The board mentioned the lack of ‘cab signals,’ that trigger an alarm if a speeding train passes trackside detectors.”
Safety deadlines postponed. Positive Train Control (PTC) – lifesaving technology – had been required by Congress in be in place by the end of 2015 but as of the derailment in December of 2017 that had not been done.
Safety sacrificed to collect money? “To fully collect federal stimulus money, construction had to be completed by mid-2017,” leading The Seattle Times to their headline: “Officials pushed ‘aggressive’ timeline before safety technology was ready.”
The new PTC deadline is December 31, 2018 but WSDOT predicts “Amtrak Cascades trains to return to the Lakewood/JBLM/DuPont bypass this fall, ahead of the federal deadline.”
And “for occasions the positive train control system doesn’t work,” WSDOT says “trains would still need special operating rules.”
Like knowing the route? Having traveled it more than once?
It was last December, three days after the derailment, according to The Seattle Times, that Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) officials said they “want to have renewed conversations with communities along the route.”
Tillicum is a community along that route and was promised to be kept “on the list of people to contact” when WSDOT had answers to the questions that nearly a year ago “they were not ready yet to answer.”
Answers only now we are beginning to learn.