Amtrak: Platform barriers impractical for train safety

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BRUNSWICK — A national train safety advocate says the town should consider erecting a barrier around its new train platform to ensure passenger safety.

“It’s sheer madness to set up a situation where humans are allowed to get close to a train track where they could be hit and possibly killed,” Bob Comer, an Ohio-based advocate, said about the Amtrak platforms in Brunswick and Freeport.

According to Comer, every train station in the country should have a barrier gate system in place that would prevent people from accidentally straying over the yellow line, onto the rails, and into the path of an oncoming train.

Clifford Cole, a spokesman for Amtrak, said that while the idea is not without merit, including barriers on all of the platforms along Amtrak’s tracks would be impractical.

“From where I sit, that is not something that would be feasible,” he said.

Cole said that Amtrak does try to go above and beyond federal safety standards.

“We’ve never been asked to gate in the platform areas as a whole,” he said. “We are always concerned about safety, and we’re consistently trying to improve or enhance what we have.”

Still, Cole said, uniformly erecting barriers throughout Amtrak’s territory is not an idea under current consideration.

“A project like that, to fence in the entire northeast corridor, I would consider that cost prohibitive,” he said.

Brunswick Town Councilor Margo Knight said that the downtown platform is in compliance with safety measures outlined by the Federal Railroad Administration.

“It’s my understanding that the platform is built to federal railroad specs by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority,” she said.

Statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis show that trains are causing fewer deaths and injuries than they did 30 years ago, with both injuries and fatalities happening at about a third of the rate they were in 1981.

Still, there have been 47 accidents in Maine over the past 10 years, including three deaths.

Marmie Edwards, vice president of communications at Operation Lifesaver, an organization dedicated to train safety, said she understands that people can be concerned.

But, she noted, people only rarely fall off of train platforms. “This is not a standard or typical problem,” Edwards said.

Cole said that Amtrak works with organizations like Operation Lifesaver to continually educate the public about how to stay safe.

“At all the stations, there’s the yellow demarcation line that passengers are asked not to step near or over,” he said. “Announcements are made on a regular basis asking passengers to observe those safety rules. We’re always trying to get our message out to to people about the value of exercising common sense and good judgment.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.

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