2018-03-07 / Opinion

Positive Train Control A Positive Step Forward

2013: A commuter train in the Bronx, New York, is barreling along at 82 miles an hour; the engineer is reportedly asleep at the controls. The train crashes in a curve, where the maximum speed is 30 mph. Four dead, dozens injured.

Positive Train Control, a complex system of global position system receivers, data radios, trackside interface units, and computers, promises to make railroading safer.

Effectively, all the electronics working together will first warn the engineer if there is a problem on the tracks. If a train is traveling too fast, the PTC will warn the engineer, automatically slow, and automatically stop the train if necessary.

February 2018: An Amtrak passenger train traveling 59 miles per hour outside Cayce, S.C., had been switched onto the wrong track when it slammed into a stationary freight train. Two dead, 114 injured.

PTC can recognize when switches in the track are misaligned, stopping the train before a tragedy happens. It can also recognize when two trains are about to collide, warning the engineer, and then automatically stopping the train if the engineer doesn’t react.

April 2016: An Amtrak train traveling 100 mph slams into the backhoe of a crew working on the tracks. Reports say the engineer knew there was going to be track maintenance in the area, but wasn’t aware equipment would be on the tracks. Two killed.

PTC can prevent unauthorized movement of trains onto sections of track where track maintenance crews are working.

The American Association of Railroad says PTC will cost the railroads more than $10 billion. It should be 80% operational by the end of this year, and fully implemented by 2020.

Village and county roads in the Archbold area were closed for a brief time Feb. 25-26 to allow Norfolk Southern crews to install PTC equipment on the twin-track main railroad line through Archbold.

It’s expensive, and it was an inconvenience for area residents, but PTC will make railroads safer.

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