The 2017 deaths of two CSX Transportation workers were the result of their decision to walk on an active Amtrak train track in Washington, D.C., the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a report issued Tuesday.

As a result of its investigation, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation to CSX and Amtrak that they prohibit employees from walking or working too close to adjacent tracks of another railroad unless the employees are protected by means of communication between the two railroads.

Trains coming from different directions

A CSX conductor and a conductor trainee were struck and killed by an Amtrak train on the night of June 27, 2017.  After checking a problem with a railcar, the two CSX employees were walking south, to the left of their freight train, on the closer of two adjacent Amtrak tracks, when they were struck. Contributing to the accident was their likely focus on the lights and sounds of the northbound P66 Amtrak train approaching them on the far-left Amtrak track and their failure to realize Amtrak train P175 was coming from behind them at nearly the same time.

More comfortabble to walk on track

NTSB investigators learned through interviews that many railroad workers found it easier to walk on track crossties rather than directly on the ballast, which are the small stones beneath and around the track. Investigators found that while the conductors were likely aware that the two Amtrak tracks were active, they may have chosen this more comfortable way to walk back to the front of their train because no Amtrak trains had passed through the area for about an hour.

“Walking on active railroad tracks without protection is dangerous and wrong,” said Robert Hall, director of the NTSB’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials. “Walking on another company's tracks without protection is even more dangerous.”