AMTRAK's Northeast Corridor Trains Operate With a One-Person Locomotive Crew

RCED-85-1: Published: Apr 18, 1985. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the operation of National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK) trains in the Northeast Corridor, focusing on: (1) issues associated with the practice of operating each train with only one engineer; (2) the cost of stationing an additional engineer in each train; (3) AMTRAK safety records in the Northeast Corridor; and (4) changes in engineers' work schedules.

GAO found that AMTRAK has installed equipment in all of its Northeast Corridor locomotives that automatically stops each train if: (1) the engineer does not reset the system every 26 to 28 seconds; (2) speed signals are not obeyed within 6 seconds; or (3) the locomotive exceeds authorized speeds. AMTRAK checks the safety equipment on each locomotive daily to ensure proper operation. Since there have been only 13 instances of equipment malfunction identified in over 5 years, GAO and AMTRAK believe that both the equipment and the inspection procedures are adequate. GAO also found that: (1) it would cost approximately $16.5 million annually to place a second engineer in the cab of each Northeast Corridor train; (2) over a 5-year period, engineers did not have any health problems at work that affected their ability to operate trains; and (3) while the number of deaths of trespassers and AMTRAK maintenance employees did not change significantly over the same 5-year period, the number of injuries to trespassers and employees declined significantly. In addition, GAO found that: (1) an agreement between AMTRAK and the engineers' union increased the number of round trips that each engineer could make in a month; and (2) while engineers make more trips each month, no appreciable change has occurred in engineers' work schedules under the agreement.

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