Railroad Industry Claims Mandated Safety Technology is Too Expensive

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Chatsworth Rail Disaster Memorial
Twenty-one railroad accidents since 2001 could have been prevented with new safety technology that the industry is fighting against adopting. Using GPS, wireless communications and central control centers, Positive Train Control (PTC) automatically applies a train’s brakes when facing a collision or derailment.
The new system was mandated by federal legislation four years ago, after a head-on collision in California in September 2008 killed 25 and injured 135. Safety advocates argue that PTC could have saved those killed near Chatsworth, as well as another 28 people who died in train accidents over the past eleven years.
Railroad companies want to delay implementation of PTC for at least three years, claiming it’s too expensive. They have found a sympathetic ear among Republicans in Congress, and have already won a key concession from the Obama administration regarding the safety technology, reducing the amount of track subject to the system.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act, signed by President George W. Bush on October 15, 2008, required the installation of PTC by the end of 2015, at a cost of $13 billion. Although one government agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, has advocated in favor of PTC, the agency in charge of supposedly enforcing the deadline, the Federal Railroad Administration, has taken the side of the rail industry.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky

As Rail Tragedies Fade From Memory, Resistance to Safety Rule Gains Steam (by Justine Sharrock, Laurie Udesky, and Stuart Silverstein, Fair Warning) 


Roger Hammond 12 years ago
25 people died that weekend on california highways also. the difference is the highway deaths were touted as good news as the last year had 40. there was no outrage, no forcing private companies to spend 15 billion on technology that doesn't quite exist. the railroads had to start companies to manufacture the equipment. when it is in place, nobody knows for sure if it will work or cause gridlock. the deaths were tragic, but highway deaths are also tragic. the difference is 25 separate deaths are not reported nationally and congress doesn't make a knee-jerk reaction to them.

Leave a comment