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Final testing of PTC system on Amtrak Cascades line

The site of an Amtrak train derailment near DuPont, Wash. (WSDOT)

Trains are in the final phase of testing of the new positive train control system that has been installed on the entire Amtrak Cascades rail line nine months after a deadly derailment near Dupont.

That fatal accident occurred on the inaugural run on the new Point Defiance bypass, killing three. The federal government ordered Amtrak to install Positive Train Control or P.T.C.

An Amtrak Cascades train roared past on its final test run of this Saturday. Workers spent the day testing the new positive train control system on the last of the trains that use this rail line.

“The final pieces of Amtrak Cascades fleet are being tested and approved so that they can go into service using positive train control,” said Janet Matkin, a spokeswoman for the Washington state Department of Transportation.

Matkin says the new P.T.C. equipment was installed on the trains and on the tracks, working in concert with a new back office server.

“We now have all three of those components in place,” Matkin said. “And now the future testing will be how well they work together.”

This comes in response to the deadly derailment on this rail-line last December. Seventy-seven passengers were on board Amtrak Cascades Train 501 on its inaugural run along the new Point Defiance Bypass near Lakewood.

As the speeding train approached a railroad bridge over I-5, it derailed. Three people died. The feds gave the agencies involved until Dec. 31 to have P.T.C. up and running to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Matkin says Amtrak and Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad insist they will be ready.

“They are totally confident that everything will be fully operational by the deadline,” she said.

But they won’t use the new bypass until the National Transportation Safety Board releases its full report on the deadly accident. That isn’t expected to happen until next spring.

The testing resumes Sunday morning.

By Deborah Horne, KIRO 7

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