Amtrak Crash: Congress Looks To Delay Requirement For Safer Trains

It’s being widely reported this afternoon the Amtrak train that derailed last night killing at least 6 people was traveling almost twice the speed limit for the section of track (100MPH in a 50MPH zone).  For the moment, let’s assume that’s true for the purposes of this discussion (though it’s early in the process).

The first thing I thought when I read that was, “How can there not be automatic controls to slow a train and prevent that type of accident?”

After 30 minutes of reading, I learned that such technology has existed for quite some time.  ATC, or Automatic Train Control, has been used since the 1960s in Japan on high-speed trains.

But, such technology wasn’t even mandated for future requirements by the federal government until 2008, spurred mostly by a collision between a passenger train and a freight train that killed 25 people.

As early as 2010, there were reports that Amtrak and other large railroad companies might not make the 2015 deadline.  When it became clear that making the deadline was unlikely, the Senate Commerce Committee chose to punt, introducing a bill to delay the requirement until 2020.

Now, if you’re sure that nobody can make a goal you set, leaving it in place doesn’t actually help the situation.  But, I don’t think the new legislation pushing it out 5 years appears to do a whole lot more than give folks more time.  There are certainly dissenting opinions as to whether this technology is necessary given the huge price tag, but when the decision is made to implement, it seems like 12 years is way too long.

Before the current Amtrak President and CEO held that title, he was the head of the Federal Railroad Association.

Here’s the op-ed that he wrote back in late 2013 about PTC.  Interestingly, it sounded like there was sizable infrastructure for PTC already completed in the Northeast Corridor (NEC):

Amtrak already has PTC technology in operation on 530 track-miles along Amtrak-owned sections of the Northeast Corridor and on our Michigan Line. Amtrak began an aggressive program in 2010 to install PTC on an additional 1,200 track-miles of our railroad.

Fast forward, and Amtrak noted early this  year that they were almost done:

“This project has included lots of hard work from the different groups involved, including C&S, Mechanical, Operations and Track departments,” said Mid-Atlantic Division PTC Engineer David James. “The project is very close to being complete and on time, even with significant hurdles. We want to make sure that all of the Amtrak devices used in the NEC are running with the necessary upgrades to begin revenue service. We are hopeful that the new ACSES system will be operational by the end of 2015.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 7 years later these systems still aren’t in place.  But, like I tell the people who work for me, I prefer that they make new mistakes rather than the same ones over and over.

This seems like a mistake that didn’t need to happen.

The post Amtrak Crash: Congress Looks To Delay Requirement For Safer Trains was published first on Pizza In Motion.

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