The multi-year effort to implement positive train control wrapped up two days before a deadline set by Congress. The tech is intended to prevent trains from running through red signals or being switched to the wrong track.
(TNS) — A system intended to prevent train collisions and derailments caused by excessive speed has been completed, the Federal Railroad Administration announced. The multi-year effort to install Positive Train Control wrapped up on Dec. 29, two days before a deadline set by Congress.
PTC is intended to prevent trains from running through red signals or being switched to the wrong track. It also is intended to prevent derailments caused by excessive speeds and to keep trains out of active work zones.
It has been a priority of railroad safety regulators for a half-century, folowing a head-on collision between two Penn Central commuter trains in August 1969 that killed four people in Darien, Conn.
The nation's seven Class 1 railroads — BNSF Railway Co., CSX Transportation, Grand Trunk Corporation (Canadian National's operations), Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line Corporation (Canadian Pacific's operations), and Union Pacific Railroad — spent $11.5 billion to develop and deploy PTC, according to the Association of American Railroads. That figure doesn't include spending by shortline and passenger railroads.
"Achieving 100 percent PTC implementation is a tremendous accomplishment and reflects the Department's top priorities — safety, innovation, and infrastructure," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
The system is operating along 57,536 miles of track.
PTC likely would have prevented the December 2013 derailment of a Metro-North commuter train which entered a sharp curve at excessive speed just north of New York City. Four passengers died in the crash.
It also might have prevented high-speed derailments in Washington state that killed three and on the Northeast Corridor outside Philadelphia that killed eight, as well as the head-on crash involving a Metrolink commuter train in southern California that claimed 25 lives.
Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act in October 2008, requiring railroads to have positive train control installed by the end of 2015. Congress postponed the deadline at least twice as railroads struggled with such issues as interoperability, where locomotives from one railroad could operate on the tracks of another railroad with different PTC technology.
Trains are tracked by satellite and by sensors and transponders alongside the track that monitor signals and switches. The system can slow or stop a train if it travels through a red signal.
"At its core, PTC is a risk reduction system that will make a safe industry even safer, and provide a solid foundation upon which additional safety improvements will be realized," said Federal Railroad Administrator Ronald L. Batory.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was among those welcoming completion of PTC.
"There is no higher priority at the MTA than safety, and full PTC implementation brings our railroad operations to the next level," said Patrick J. Foye, MTA Chairman and CEO. "This technology will prevent future collisions and ultimately help save lives across our more than 500 mile commuter rail systems."
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