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The BLET opposes the installation of shunt enhancer antennas on Amtrak’s fleet of Siemens Charger locomotives. Photo by David Estes

The BLET has filed written comments with the Federal Railroad Administration to oppose Amtrak’s request for a waiver that would allow it to install shunt enhancer antennas on its fleet of Siemens Charger locomotives. Shunting is a core safety function of trainsets and allows for the operation of many other systems, including dispatch systems, signal protection, and PTC. Loss of shunt is a major safety concern for the BLET and its members, as it causes a signal system or grade crossing system to not detect the presence of a train. This leads to a significant increase in the risk of collisions and grade crossing accidents.

Amtrak engineers throughout the United States have reported to the BLET that loss of shunt is a frequent occurrence, and for many, it is a routine issue. In comments filed with the FRA on June 18, the BLET wrote: “With such widespread loss of shunt issues, and such poor documentation provided by Amtrak to explain the cause of the problem, we have no reason to believe that the proposed antenna system would alleviate the concern.”

Instead, the BLET is asking the FRA and Amtrak to investigate the root cause of loss of shunt incidents across the system. In its written comments, BLET provided FRA with a number of concerns that BLET members have raised regarding loss of shunt. And while the industry has established a Loss of Shunt committee to explore the issue, the BLET and other rail labor unions have not been invited to participate. “We would like to see Amtrak and other carriers conduct better outreach to labor to learn about these and other safety concerns,” BLET wrote.

Read the full BLET submission here (PDF).