Ten years after Congressional mandate, Positive Train Control is still not fully implemented

America’s Trains Are Still Not as Safe as They Could Be

In September of 2008, a Union Pacific freight train collided with a Metrolink passenger train in Los Angeles, killing 25 people and injuring 135 more. After investigation, authorities concluded that the cause of the train accident was operator error. One of the train engineers ran a red light while using his cell phone.

In the aftermath of this horrific accident, legislators introduced a mandate requiring both freight and passenger train companies to implement a safety system called Positive Train Control. Initially, the mandate set a deadline of the end of 2015. But by the end of 2016, safety systems had only been implemented on 16 percent of freight tracks and 24 percent of passenger rail lines.

New requirements specify that by the end of 2018, inter-city passenger trains and commuter rail lines must have all their Positive Train Control hardware and software installed. The technology must be operable on at least half of their route miles.

How Positive Train Control Prevents Accidents

Positive Train Control or PTC uses GPS, wifi, and radio signals to facilitate communication between trains and rail stations. The system collects and communicates information about speed limits, track switch positions, work zone locations, movement authorizations, and more. If a train is in danger of a movement violation, the PTC system will prove an on board warning to the engineer. If the engineer does not respond in a certain time frame, the system with then automatically stop the train.

When implemented properly, PTC can prevent the following types of accidents:

  • Train to train collisions
  • Derailments caused by excessive speed
  • Accidents caused by trains traveling on tracks where authorized maintenance is occurring
  • Movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position

Delays Cost Lives

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the delays in the implementation of PTC have been costly to the public. Officials point to 153 train accidents, 300 deaths, and 6,800 injuries that could have been prevented had PTC systems been in place and operational.

For example, at the end of last year, an Amtrak train derailed near Tacoma, Washington while traveling at 80 mph on a stretch of track where it should have been traveling 30 mph. Three people were killed and 72 were injured when the train cars leapt the track and crashed down onto the highway below. Positive Train Control could have prevented this accident by automatically slowing the train before it entered the 30 mph zone.

A recent train accident which took place last month in South Carolina is another example of a train accident that could have been prevented with PTC. The accident involved an Amtrak train mistakenly diverting to a side track occupied by an unmanned freight train. When the two trains collided, two Amtrak employees died and 116 people were hurt.

Get Compensation for Train Accidents

If you were a passenger on a train or a motorist or pedestrian injured in a collision with a train—or if you have lost a loved one in a train accident—you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 now.

📞 Call 800-333-0000 Today!