Positive train control technology and safety briefings could prevent train disasters

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NEW YORK (PIX 11) — At this point, if you’re a Metro-North commuter simply questioning the readiness of the train engineer bringing to you work – there’s little distinction between not being  “focused,” or in full REM sleep while behind the controls.

The bottom line – we might not be talking about an 82 mph derailment in a 30 mph zone if the Metro-North already had new technology called “positive train control” installed on its system. The MTA – along with several of the nation’s other largest railroads – is already having serious trouble making a federally mandated end of 2015 deadline to have the new tech up and running.

“Much of the technology is still under development and is untested and unproven for commuter railroads the size and complexity of Metro-North and LIRR, and all of the radio spectrum necessary to operate PTC has not been made available.”

The agency estimates it will cost $900 million to install PTC on both the Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.

NTSB member Earl Weener says it’s money well spent.

“These systems provide a safety redundancy by slowing or stopping a train that’s not being operated in accordance with signals, speed limits, or other operating rules. PTC is proven technology that can prevent train to train collisions, over speed derailments, and incursions in the work zones. Since this is a derailment involving a high speed, it’s possible that PTC could have prevented it,” said Weener.

Safety is not just being addressed on the tech front. Governor Cuomo announced Tuesday that, at his direction, the MTA will begin implementing what’s called a safety stand down. This could happen as soon as Thursday, and employees will be required to participate in safety briefings.

4 comments

  • RRInvestigator

    Let's see—there are 2 pilots in the cockpit of airliners. There are 2 people in the cabs of freight locomotives—an Engineer and a Conductor. SO, why do Amtrak trains and commuter rail have ONLY one person in the cab of the locomotive? MONEY!!! Money / Profit has been ahead of safety for passengers for a very long time in the rail industry. There are NO seat belts on Amtrak or commuter trains, either. Is it any wonder people get thrown around inside the coaches when there is a derailment? And, some are thrown out broken windows! The cheapest way to greatly reduce the chance of what happened in New York from happening again is to put 2 people in the cabs of these trains. It isn't "rocket science", now is it? BUT, America under the Corporate Thug culture, that has been increasing yearly, has become a "get rid of as many employees as possible" culture. RESULT: Safety suffers greatly and people get killed or injured. This incident proves it.

  • RRInvestigator

    I just did the math. $900,000,000 could pay 360 employees $50,000 a year for 50 years! OR, let's say Metro-North needs 50 additional employees to double the crew in these passenger trains. 50 Engineers at $50,000 a year for 50 years equals $125 million. That looks to be a lot cheaper than $900,000,000! Even if the 50 get paid $100,000 a year, that would put the cost at $250 million over 50 years. And, what if the PTC electronics, which have not been installed, fail for any reason? You know electronic systems can and do fail. The hard question should be asked: "WHY IS THERE AN ANTI-PEOPLE MENTALITY IN OUR COUNTRY? WHY not put 2 people in these Amtrak and commuter locomotives to help insure safety? DOUBLE THE CAB CREW IMMEDIATELY!!! When, do you suppose, the next person is going to doze off doing something, like driving a train, that puts people's lives in jeopardy?

  • Rudy Caparros

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