Railroads use manual 1800’s technology – a hand on the throttle – to control the speed of their trains – technology that is horribly ineffective on today’s crowded train lines and two mile long trains. A moment of inattention, a bad decision, or misaligned switch
For over 45 years, the Federal Railroad Administration has been urging the railroads to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) to automatically stop trains moving at dangerous speeds. The effectiveness of PTC is undeniable. According to the FRA, had PTC been in place since they first recommended it in 1969, it could have prevented the death of 245 people, and injuries to 4,260 more.
In 2008, after a commuter rail mishap killed 25 people, Federal legislation was passed requiring that PTC by installed by 2015. The law includes significant financial penalties if the railroads fail to meet that deadline. Federal Railroad Administration regulations later limited the PTC requirement to railroad line segments carrying passengers or chemicals that are toxic by inhalation.
Positive Train Control – Additional Authorities Could Benefit Implementation, United States Government Accountability Office
Detailed Report Shows Most Railroads Will Miss Positive Train Control Deadline, Federal Railroad Administration