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New York train safety moves ahead with PTC deadline

Railways across the nation are working to install Positive Train Control (PTC), a complicated safety system designed to slow or stop trains that are traveling too fast or are heading for a collision or a misaligned track switch.

The installation deadline was Dec. 31, 2018, but many railroads received an extension if they made substantive progress toward installation.

Installation is proceeding

In New York, the 94-mile stretch of CSX track leased by Amtrak between Schenectady and Poughkeepsie was compliant, but the line south of Poughkeepsie that Amtrak leases from Metro-North isn’t complete, an Amtrak spokesman said.

Meanwhile, installation is proceeding on track Amtrak leases between the Capital region and Montreal and on track leased between Whitehall and Rutland, Vermont.

The Federal Railroad Administration also grants extensions to companies that need to focus on making the system work among the companies that lease the track.

What PTC does

PTC monitors a train’s position, direction, speed and safe braking distance along with track signals, switches and circuits. The information between the track and the locomotive is gathered by servers that monitor movement in real time and transmits authorization for trains to move onto track segments.

CSX says it has installed PTC to operate on its 12,000 miles of track in New York state, including hardware on 400 radio towers and 1,800 locomotives which involves 4,400 communications devices and training for 18,000 employees.

According to the Association of American Railroads, PTC will prevent:

  • Train-to-train collisions
  • Excessive speed that leads to derailment
  • Train access to track under maintenance
  • Train access through a misaligned track switch

PTC would likely have prevented several deadly derailments that resulted from trains operating too fast, including the 2013 Metro-North commuter train accident that killed four and an Amtrak derailment in Washington state that killed three.

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