- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

Passenger trains resumed service yesterday on the stretch of track where an Amtrak train derailed Monday , but new restrictions by freight carrier CSX Transportation slowed commuter trains up and down the East Coast and caused confusion for one commuter line in Virginia.

Under a heat order requiring trains to slow to 45 mph between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., Amtrak and MARC commuter trains resumed service yesterday on the Brunswick line, where an Amtrak train derailed Monday about 10 miles north of Union Station, injuring 101.

As of yesterday afternoon, 12 persons remained hospitalized in five hospitals. All were in good or fair condition, including the 80-year-old woman who had been in serious condition at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, hospital representatives said.

Freight trains began running Tuesday at 8:45 p.m., said CSX Transportation spokesman Dan Murphy.

MARC did not resume train service until 1:45 p.m. yesterday because the line wanted to make sure it had enough trains in place to ensure reliable service, said spokesperson Suzanne Bond.

CSX Corp.'s new policy will require passenger trains, which normally have a higher speed limit than freight trains, to slow down, just as freight trains must, on days where a heat order is issued by CSX, said Mr. Murphy.

The new policy affected several city rail lines up and down the East Coast, as well as regional lines such as Philadelphia's SEPTA service, Boston's MBTA rail, and Tri-Rail in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The heat order forced trains yesterday on the MARC Brunswick and Camden, Md., lines to go no faster than 45 mph,10 miles below the regular speed limit for freight trains.

"The speed for commuter and Amtrak trains will be the same as it is for a merchandise train," Mr. Murphy said.

Passenger trains on those lines usually travel at a maximum speed of 70 to 79 mph. Mr. Murphy said CSX would make a decision this morning on whether to issue the order again today.

Heat orders are applied to railroad tracks in areas where there have been consecutive days of 90-plus degrees or fluctuations in temperature of 40 degrees or more, the company said.

In general, a heat order requires freight trains to travel 10 mph below the regular speed limit. CSX's policy will affect all passenger trains running on CSX tracks, including Washington-Chicago and Washington-Florida trains.

Trains between Washington and Boston will not be affected because Amtrak owns the track from the District to the Massachusetts state line. Amtrak reduces speeds to 80 mph whenever temperatures exceed 95 degrees, said spokesman Bill Epstein.

Trains such as the Acela Express travel from Washington to Boston at speeds up to 150 mph, although they do not always travel at top speed, Mr. Epstein said.

Mr. Murphy said that CSX usually does not issue new policies after rail accidents.

"In most cases, the circumstances don't warrant it," he said.

The derailment in Kensington was an example of unique circumstances, he said, because "you've got extraordinary heat, and we've got a responsibility to protect the passengers."

There was some disruption of the passenger rail service yesterday.

The Virginia Railway Express 1:05 train out of Washington on the Fredericksburg line was delayed by a half-hour because of confusion over the new regulations, said VRE spokesman Mark Roeber.

VRE was questioning why it had to adhere to a policy that applied only to its Fredericksburg line, when trains on its Manassas line, which is owned by Norfolk Southern, did not have any heat restrictions.

"Unless we can get the order changed, we are looking at significant delays," said Mr. Roeber. "It's rather confusing and somewhat convoluted."

"We'll give them this week, but if there are serious operational concerns, us and probably Amtrak will be raising the red flag," said VRE chief operating officer Pete Sklannik. "We're all for safety, but there has to be a balance."

The first MARC train to get under way from Washington to Martinsburg, W.Va., was 40 minutes late to its destination, but that was because the crew got stuck in traffic on their way to Union Station, said MARC spokesman Frank Fulton.

Mr. Fulton said heat restrictions will slow service on the Brunswick line by about 15 to 20 minutes, and by about 10 minutes on the Camden line.

MARC does not expect to lose passengers or revenue because of the delay.

"It doesn't slow them down that much," said Mr. Fulton.

"The reason people take the train is to read, relax and save money."


This article is based in part on wire reports.

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