UT Rail Experts Featured in Amtrak Crash Coverage

David Clarke, director of UT’s Center for Transportation Research, and Mark Burton, director of Transportation Economics at the center, have once again been able to provide valuable insight to national media in the wake of a rail disaster.

David Clarke

David Clarke

Speaking about the Amtrak accident near Philadelphia that killed eight and injured more than 200, Clarke shared insight with National Public Radio‘s nationwide show Morning Edition, speaking to them about a type of backup control for trains called “Positive Train Control.”

That system serves as a backup to engineers, helping slow the train before dangerous stretches that it has detected using GPS if the engineer has not already done so.

“You can’t run the train too fast if the system is functional,” said Clarke, who is also a research associate professor of civil engineering at UT. “It will not allow you to do that. That’s a big step for removing the human failure from the system.”

Mark Burton

Mark Burton

Burton spoke to Marketplace about the accident in more general terms, saying that although the Northeast Corridor—the section of Amtrak’s network that includes Philadelphia—is safe, more funding would be required to fully modernize it.

“You’d need to invest in it from one end to the other,” said Burton, who is also a professor of economics at UT. “There would almost certainly be no section of track that was unaffected.”

Clarke’s interview can be heard at NPR.

Burton’s interview can be read at Marketplace.