Back-to-back news conferences by Democratic and Republican House leaders, given from the same podium on Thursday, showed a contrast in how both parties are responding to the politics of a deadly train crash that killed at least eight people and injured scores more.

One key safety feature was missing from the stretch of track where an Amtrak passenger train going more than 100 mph derailed and killed seven people.

Investigators say that if positive train control had been installed on that stretch, the technology could have automatically slowed the train and perhaps saved lives.

NPR's David Schaper tells our Newscast unit that Amtrak and other railroads are behind schedule in rolling out the technology.

He filed this report:

The engineer of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 that was traveling at 106 mph in a 50-mph zone in Philadelphia applied the full emergency braking system moments before the derailment that claimed seven lives and caused dozens of injuries, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Amtrak was formed in the 1970s out of the ashes of several bankrupt rail lines, including the Penn Central. Its has been criticized for poor service, and shaky finances, but its safety record has been good.

More than 31 million passengers rode Amtrak in fiscal year 2013, the last for which figures are available. In the Northeast Corridor, more than 2,000 trains operate daily on Amtrak's rails, between commuter lines and Amtrak trains. And far more passengers ride Amtrak between Washington, New York and Boston than fly.

Transportation funding was going to get plenty of attention this week in Washington — even before an Amtrak train derailed about 140 miles to the north.

This is National Infrastructure Week, so lobbyists, labor leaders and activists started swarming Capitol Hill on Monday, seeking funds for roads, bridges and other projects related to transportation.

Update at 1:13 a.m. ET:

Officials have started the process of notifying families, it was announced at a press conference, though it wasn't certain if everyone on the train had been accounted for. The number of injured transported to the hospital was increased to 65, but the number of dead remained at five.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said some major work would have to wait until the morning, as operating some of the heavy machinery in the dark wouldn't be safe. The next press conference also likely will wait until late Wednesday morning, he said.

Patrick Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The president of Metro-North Railroad is telling Connecticut lawmakers how the commuter line is making progress toward improving its safety and reliability. 


Metro-North is dealing with more than 30 personal injury lawsuits stemming from a train derailment and collision in Bridgeport two years ago, and more are expected in the next week.

Tintazul / Creative Commons

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's inspector general said Metro-North maintenance crews get little or no supervision and fail to document their work.


A woman has died after she was struck by an Amtrak train near the Fairfield station in Connecticut.

Bill Dickinson / Flickr

The new route for passenger rail through the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts is exceeding expectations, according to numbers from Amtrak.

The service shifted west in late December, which eliminated a stop in Amherst, and added new ones in Northampton and Greenfield. 

John Mueller / Creative Commons

Amtrak says 299 passengers headed for Boston were stuck on a cold, dark train for more than three hours after it lost power in Connecticut. 

Sean Marshall / Creative Commons

Connecticut's commissioner of transportation, James Redeker has cautioned legislators against attempting to replace Metro-North Railroad as the operator of the New Haven line.

Some Senate Republicans say it's time for the state to have a choice on who runs the commuter railroad.

Federal Dollars Head To Metro-North For Sandy Repairs

Feb 11, 2015

Congressional officials from New York have announced an investment in Metro-North Railroad for capital improvement projects from Hurricane Sandy.

U.S. Senator Describes Train Wreckage

Feb 7, 2015

Two U.S. Senators and two congressional representatives Friday saw the wreckage and toured the crash site of Tuesday’s fiery Metro-North crash in Westchester County that left six people dead. 

The officials, including U.S. Senator from Connecticut Richard Blumenthal, spoke after viewing the charred train in a warehouse and then touring the crash site in Valhalla.

“Look inside the car and you can see those third rails like daggers going into the heart of that chamber.”

Officials Identify Metro-North Crash Victims

Feb 5, 2015

Officials have released the names of the six people who died when a Metro-North commuter train Tuesday hit an SUV stopped on the tracks at a rail crossing in Westchester County. Five were from Westchester.


Federal investigators visited a Metro-North train crash site Wednesday where six people were killed and 15 were injured.

A train on the Harlem Line crashed into an SUV Tuesday evening in the Westchester County town of Valhalla, New York. It's considered the worst accident in the history of the rail line.

New York Senator Charles Schumer told reporters Wednesday that the train was traveling at about 58 mph, within the speed limit for the area, which ranges between 60 and 70 mph. Federal investigators gathered other information about whether the train's brakes were applied, and whether its horn sounded as it approached a crossing.

A crash involving a commuter train north of New York City and a car on the tracks left the SUV's driver and five train passengers dead and a dozen people injured Tuesday night, according to WNYC.


A federal report stemming from the investigation into the May 2013 derailment of a Metro-North Railroad train that injured scores of passengers in Bridgeport said that bolts on brand-new M-8 cars are too weak.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that Metro-North replace thousands of bolts on the fleet of more than 400 new Kawasaki rail cars on the New Haven line and New Canaan branch.

The NTSB said the bolts were not to blame for the derailment, but that their failure made the two-train collision worse, because a piece of one car sliced into the passenger compartment of another.

WalkingGeek / Flickr Creative Commons

Metro-North received something this week that it's not used to: praise. The commuter rail line was commended by transportation advocates for its handling of this week's snow storm and getting passengers to their destination before the storm hit.

MTA Metro-North Railroad

Amtrak says it's suspending service north of New York and reducing its schedule for trains operating south of New York due to the massive winter storm.

Northeast Regional and Acela Express services are operating on a reduced schedule between New York and Washington. The Keystone Service between New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, also is reduced. 

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and a host of federal, state and local officials took an inaugural train ride Monday on newly rebuilt tracks in western Massachusetts.

The trip from Springfield to Greenfield highlighted the dawn of high speed passenger rail service along what is known as the Knowledge Corridor.  For the first time in decades passenger trains will stop in Northampton and Holyoke.  Kathleen Anderson, president of the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, said it opens a lot of possibilities including more tourism.

A new financing plan was announced today to accelerate the redevelopment of Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts

       City officials said a proposed addition of $3.2 million in local funds along with a previously announced $4.2 million grant from the state will allow the transit-focused elements of the project to be completed simultaneously with tenant-ready commercial space and additional parking.

     "It is a big achievement having all the money that is now needed to get this project done," said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

Expos1225 / Creative Commons

Massachusetts and Connecticut officials are riding the rails on Monday to highlight upgrades in the so-called "knowledge corridor" through southern New England. 

Patrick Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The president of Metro-North told Governor Dannel Malloy that the commuter rail line cannot reach its target of 95 percent on-time service, and that the best way to achieve the goal of punctuality is to continue to rebuild the rail system. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker to provide updates on the latest transportation news including CTfastrak, I-84, and our regional railways. Also, as we head into the winter months, how prepared are the state's roads?

John Mueller / Creative Commons

A woman was struck and killed by an Amtrak train in Milford on Monday.

A Metro-North official said the woman was struck at 12:21 pm west of the Milford train station. 

The administration of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is recommending a Chinese company be awarded a contract to build new subway cars for the MBTA.  The railcars will be assembled at a new factory that is to be built in Springfield.

Gov. Patrick made the announcement Tuesday standing in front of an empty 40- acre lot on Springfield’s east side,  where the CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles Co. has said it will build a $50 million factory creating over 250 new construction and manufacturing jobs.

Sam Churchill / Creative Commons

Many cities across the country are bringing back the streetcar. Providence, Rhode Island just received $13 million in federal TIGER grant funding to build a streetcar system. Could a Connecticut city be far behind?