Tragedy Casts Spotlight On Need For Positive Train Control Adoption

Posted on December 3, 2013

This past Sunday, a train collision in New York claimed the lives of four people, casting a spotlight on the safety of these vehicles.  A new report shows how the incident has served as a reminder that many train operators are lagging in their quest to meet a federally imposed deadline designed to foster safety.

Before 2016 rolls around, nearly all of the freight and passenger trains in service throughout the United States are supposed to receive assistance via a technology known as positive train control.  This systems hinges on onboard systems working in conjunction with satellites in order to determine a train’s exact progress as it hurtles down the tracks.

By getting technology involved in this manner, the hope is that the risk of a crash that can be attributed to human error could be dramatically reduced.  The system can hit the brakes to limit speed where necessary and route trains in a way that eliminates any danger of them colliding.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office came out with a report that cast doubts on whether or not all operators could meet the deadline imposed.  While some industry groups would like to see the 2015 date pushed back to 2018, this latest incident could serve as an argument against that, especially if the National Transportation Safety Board finds that speeding and/or human error is confirmed to be the cause of this incident.

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