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News Media Exposes Railroad Industry Reluctance on PTC

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(New York, New York – December 20, 2013)

Continuing to call the American railroad industry out on the majority of U.S. rail carriers seeking delay on the year’s end-2015 Congressionally-mandated institution of a nationwide Positive Train Control (PTC) satellite-based railroad safety system, several news media providers have recently questioned the true intent of U.S. rail carriers in delaying implementation another three to five years.

While The New York Daily World carried a December 19 editorial stated that “The commuter train that crashed earlier this month in the Bronx shouldn’t have derailed,” and that “The four people who died should still be alive,” citing the December 1 tragedy that resulted from a locomotive engineer’s momentary inattention in failing to slow his train, travelling at 82 mph, in time to negotiate a 30-mph speed-restricted curve, Writer Jeff Lusanne of the World Socialist Web Site interviewed long-time railroad safety consultant John Hiatt, himself a former railroad engineer, on the advantages of PTC and the danger of delaying activation of the National Transportation Safety Board-endorsed system.

When asked by Lusanne what he thought of the state of the rail industry in North America at present, Hiatt charged that “It is teetering on real dangerous times.”

The WSWS writer delved further into the issue, asking Hiatt his thoughts on the Metro-North derailment that killed four passengers and injured about 70 others. “I think it is an example of an accident that should not have happened,” explaining that “PTC would give backup, peace of mind, a safety net for circumstances like this. PTC would have recognized that the train was not slowing for a curve, possibly in time to introduce emergency braking that would have prevented or reduced the severity of the accident.”

“Five years ago, in the wake of a fatal train accident in California, Congress mandated that all railroads install an automated braking system that could have prevented the crash. It took the horrific 2008 collision in California to finally get Congress’ attention,” the editorial then chronicling the Los Angeles Metrolink crash that occurred when the locomotive engineer of the passenger train, distracted as he texted a rail enthusiast, ran through stop signals and collided headlong into a Union Pacific freight train, killing himself and 24 passengers as well as injuring another 135 on board the commuter train.

“The deadline is 2015, but many railroads – wary of the cost – have failed to comply and are pushing for delay,” continued the Daily World editorial, surmising that “The likelihood that the deadline will be met? Close to zero!”

“Not long after the law’s passage, railroads started battling for an extension,” added the NYDW editorial. “Now they want until 2018.”

But “Why are the railroads resisting the implementation of Positive Train Control?” Lusanne queried Hiatt, who replied that “For them, it is way cheaper to deal with accidents than it would be to implement PTC.” Hiatt added that he felt “The lack of PTC is something seriously, seriously wrong, and it’s going to keep getting worse until they do something to address it.”

But the NYDW editorial piece pointed out that “Amtrak has a form of positive train control in operation between Boston and New Haven and in some spots farther south along the Northeast Corridor. Metrolink says its system will be up and running by the end of next year. BNSF, a freight operator, expects to meet the deadline, too.”

“If they can do it, why can’t others,” asks the Daily World. 


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