(Washington, DC – January 16, 2014)
In releasing the independent federal government transportation accident investigation and remediation recommending agency’s annual “Most Wanted List” of items which are most needed in order to remove the problems most prevalent in causal factors for the highest profile transportation tragedies in the recent past, the National Transportation Safety Board took direct aim at safety conditions with the nation’s freight railroads and rail passenger commute operations Thursday on its goals for 2014.
The NTSB annually names 10 advocacy and awareness priorities it feels would have prevented massive accidents in 2013 or stemmed a tragic trend which began in the recent past and continued into last year.
One item, the institution of Positive Train Control, a satellite-oversight program which is designed to prevent train collisions when human preventative actions overlook or fail to react to restrictive rail operating situations, was a holdover from last year, indicating continued accidents attributable to the reluctance of the nation’s railroad industry to comply with the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 which requires activation of the system by the end of next year. Although some railroads and transit agencies have announced their intention to be in compliance by the 2015 deadline, others are pushing Congress for a five-year delay to the launch of PTC.
The other priority, aimed at several severe tragedies occurring in rail or rail-related passenger commute operations, calls for improvements in safety culture and operational practices in this critical phase of mass transit. “The NTSB in just the past year has opened investigations into accidents involving MTA Metro-North Railroad, Chicago Transit Authority and the Bay Area Rapid Transit. And there are still open safety recommendations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stemming from its fatal crash in 2009,” the NTSB report reads.
In regard to PTC, the news release says that “The NTSB has long been calling for PTC, which works by monitoring the location and movement of trains, then slowing or stopping a train that is not being operated in accordance with signal systems or operating rules. Just since 2004, the NTSB has completed investigations of 25 train accidents that killed 65, injured over 1,100 and caused millions of dollars in damages – all of which could have been prevented or mitigated by PTC.”
As NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman explains, “The traveling public relies on a safe and efficient transportation system. Yet, every year, we see over 35,000 fatalities. That’s why we have the Most Wanted List: Steps we can take today, so that more people make it home tonight.”