The derailment of the Amtrak high speed train. Picture: Pierce County Sheriff’s Department/Brooke Bova
The derailment of the Amtrak high speed train. Picture: Pierce County Sheriff’s Department/Brooke Bova

Budget cuts before fatal crash

SIX months before an Amtrak high speed train derailed near Seattle killing six people this morning, America's largest train advocacy organisation expressed concerns about budget cuts to the country's rail network.

In June, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) launched a campaign protesting the Trump Administration's proposed budget in 2018.

The budget included $US630 million in cuts for Amtrak that specifically would devastate long-distance train services.

The NARP president and CEO Jim Matthews said the advocacy group was "protesting the devastation of America's passenger train network".

NARP's "A Rally for Trains" was launched to protest the loss of funding to long distance train services across 220 US cities and loss of access to 140 million Americans.

While President Donald Trump's 2018 budget planned to cut services to hundreds of rural towns, it did also include plans to spend billions on more high speed rail and fast tracks across the country.

Two hours after this morning's crash, that has killed at least six people, Mr Trump reminded his 44.8 million followers of that infrastructure plan.

He also tweeted out a video of himself offering his deepest sympathies to those involved.

"It is all the more reason why we must immediately start fixing the infrastructure of the United States," he ended.

President Trump has come under fire for his tweets, with thousands claiming he used the accident to "push a political agenda".

Despite Mr Trump's calls for an update to America's infrastructure, the track the Amtrak train was running on this morning before its accident had just received a $US180 million upgrade.

The train corridor had been rebuilt in a bid to make the travel between Seattle and Portland more reliable.

Washington state is one of few areas across the US mainland furiously investing in passenger rail.


Multiple passengers have been killed this morning after the Amtrak train derailed on a bridge near Seattle, leaving at least one train car dangling onto the highway below.

The Amtrak passenger train was on its inaugural trip on a new service near Dupont, Washington when it derailed. The new track runs between the Washington state cities of Tacoma and Olympia.

Emergency radio transmissions, obtained by CNN, reveal the conversation between the train conductor and the dispatcher appear to be frantic and dramatic.

When the dispatcher asked the driver what happened, the conductor said "Uh, we were coming around the corner to take the bridge over I-5 there, right north into Nisqually and we went on the ground."

"Is everybody OK?" the dispatcher asked.

"I'm still figuring that out. We got cars everywhere and down onto the highway," the driver replied.

Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer said 13 of 14 train cars derailed but they had not finished searching the entire train.

"There are a couple of [train] cars that are not safe enough to search," he said.

"We know that there's nobody alive in them at this point, but there are some other fatals that we are probably going to find.

"We just don't know until they can shore up those train cars and get in there and search them," Mr Troyer said.

Authorities said at least six people were dead. The death toll was expected to rise.

The deaths "are all contained to the train," said Ed Troyer, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman. "It's pretty horrific."

About 77 people have been transported to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties, officials said. Four of them suffered serious injuries, according to Cary Evans, spokesman for CHI Franciscan Health.

One passenger told CNN, "we were catapulted into the seats in front of us."


Local officials had warned of dangers before the train made its first trip however the deadly derailment appears to have been caused by an object on the railway, according to a government official briefed on the crash.

The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, a city along the new route, predicted a deadly crash - but not one involving a derailment.

The city of Lakewood sued the Washington State Department of Transportation in 2013 in an attempt to halt the project, arguing it hadn't undergone sufficient environmental review.

Mayor Don Anderson said in an interview today he knew somebody was going to get killed.

"I didn't predict a time, but I did say somebody is going to get killed," Anderson said. "I hoped that wasn't right."

Mr Anderson had predicted the crash would be a fast-moving train hitting a car or pedestrian at a crossing, not one tumbling off a rail overpass.

In a conference call with reporters, Amtrak President and Co-CEO Richard Anderson said "Positive Train Control" had not been activated, reports CNN.

Positive Train Control is a technology that automatically slows down and eventually stops a train if it senses it's going too fast or could derail.

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