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In Aftermath of Amtrak Accident, Commuter Rail Confirms Commitment to PTC Implementation
In the aftermath of the May 12 derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia, which resulted in eight deaths and more than 200 injuries, APTA released a statement
affirming the commuter rail industry's support for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), which would prevent derailments from trains moving too fast and collisions between trains.
However, the statement said, "[T]here are still several challenges to complete national implementation of this critical safety technology by Dec. 31, 2015. News reports that suggest that PTC is fully developed and ready to be installed across the country are not accurate."
The APTA statement said that PTC was "not a mature technology" when Congress mandated its implementation as part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
"Working in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration, the freight rail industry and Amtrak, the commuter rail industry has spent a significant amount of time and resources in developing this technology and there is still work that remains to be done so that it is safe and effective. It would be ill-advised to rush forward to meet a deadline, rather than taking the necessary time to implement this complex technology properly and safely," the statement said.
According to APTA, only 29 percent of commuter rail agencies can say at this time that they can meet the deadline for PTC implementation in December. "Instead of pursuing a hard deadline that most commuter railroads cannot meet, APTA would like the Department of Transportation to have the authority to provide extensions on a case by case basis, in order to accommodate specific railroad needs and circumstances," the statement said.
“In conclusion, the commuter rail industry is 100 percent committed to developing and installing the technology, as well as acquiring radio spectrum for positive train control," the APTA statement said. "Despite our best efforts, implementing PTC nationwide by the end of this year is not possible."
Amtrak Train 188 was traveling northbound to New York City from Washington, D.C., when it derailed at about 9:30 p.m. May 12 in Philadelphia in the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor. Rescue crews were searching for passengers as Passenger Transport went to press on May 14.
The derailment occurred in the Port Richmond section of the city on track shared with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and near an intersection connecting with a New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) line. The seven-car train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members; the engine and all cars derailed, according to a DOT representative on the scene. Law enforcement sources said the train engineer and conductor survived the crash and were being interviewed.
The city of Philadelphia and surrounding municipalities, SEPTA, Amtrak, Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent fire and medical emergency-responder crews, law enforcement officials and cranes and other heavy equipment to the scene to assist with rescue efforts.
Following the accident, Amtrak halted service between New York and Philadelphia, SEPTA stopped service on its Trenton Regional Rail Line and NJ Transit suspended service on its Atlantic City Rail Line between Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and Pennsauken Station. NJ Transit officials said they will honor Amtrak tickets between New York City and Trenton.
SEPTA and NJ Transit officials said they will add cars to other commuter rail lines and provide bus shuttles to accommodate passengers. Amtrak will offer modified service between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and New York and Boston.
A seven-member “go team” from the National Transportation Safety Board and several FRA investigators were dispatched to the scene.