Amtrak Response to Crash

Amtrak PAOnce again, a rail crash brings mostly service updates-no apologies on its website and in the press. An Amtrak train struck maintenance equipment in Chester, Philadelphia, killing two maintenance workers and injuring 34 passengers and an engineer. The derailment disabled the internal communication system, so passengers in some cars didn't receive information for a half-hour after the accident.

According to a Reuters report, Amtrak has little to say:

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the railroad was operating its normal schedule of train service along the busy Northeast rail corridor on Monday. He referred all other questions to the NTSB, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As usual, the railroad's website is focused on service updates with nothing in the way of an apology. The "News Release" page shows two posts, one announcing the service disruption and another announcing the restoration plan. This was also the case in a Metro-North derailment in 2013 that killed 4 people.

Likewise, the Amtrak Facebook page gives only service updates.

To find an apology, we need to go to back to a 2015 crash. At the time, Amtrak's Facebook page did express some sentiment, although it repeats in subsequent posts, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of life." The second post conveys the message well:

As always, our first concern is taking care of our customers and employees. We have established a Family Assistance Center in Philadelphia to work closely with the family of passengers and crew on the train. Family members are encouraged to call the Amtrak Incident Hotline (800-523-9101) with questions about individuals on the train.   For our employees, the Amtrak Employee Assistance Program is staffed with trained counselors to support our employees and co-workers.

UPDATE: Finally, an apology on the Facebook page. Still nothing on the website.

Discussion Starters:

  • What could explain the lack of apology? What, if anything, is different between this incident and 2015?
  • How can Amtrak balance service updates and empathy? What should the organization post where?