Tags: Travel | amtrak | derailment | positive train control | ntsb | safety

Derailment Renews Calls for Implementing Safety Override

Image: Derailment Renews Calls for Implementing Safety Override
(Kathryn Elsesser/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 19 Dec 2017 07:51 PM

The Monday crash of an Amtrak commuter train is bringing back calls for faster implementation of a system that can override human error and prevent some crashes.

"We need positive train control [PTC], and the federal Department of Transportation is not pushing federal PTC hard enough," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "Had there been PTC, from what I'm told, the Washington crash wouldn't have happened."

That's far from certain, Politico reported Tuesday. Still, "positive train control" may well have played a role in preventing the deadly crash in Washington state that killed at least three people. The high-speed train, on its maiden trip, reportedly was traveling 80 mph on a stretch of track where it should have been going only 30 mph.

Other possibilities investigators are looking at include a possible object on the track and an engineer who might have been distracted working with a trainee.

But positive train control is still a thorny issue in Washington, which passed legislation mandating it nine years ago. The original deadline has been passed by two years, but railroads successfully lobbied for an extension.

The track where this week's crash occurred is scheduled to have the new technology turned on by next year. NPR tweeted it is currently installed, but still being tested.

Railroad investigator John Hiatt told Fox News on Tuesday he believes positive train control would have prevented the accident.

"We all believe we need to have positive train control across the country to prevent accidents," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. "We don't yet know the final NTSB decision on what actually happened with that train."

"Whether the engineer is incapacitated, distracted, fatigued — these can all be very critical events," former National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Debbie Hersman told Politico. "That's why PTC is such an important backup to the human being."

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., told Politico the engine had cameras to record what happened, "But it is very obvious, having a train on a new run, for the first time, and not doing it with PTC — we've gotta get PTC fully implemented."

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Calls for faster implementation of a positive train control safety system that can override human error and prevent some crashes have risen after Monday's Amtrak commuter crash.
amtrak, derailment, positive train control, ntsb, safety
Tuesday, 19 Dec 2017 07:51 PM
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