Rosenker Urges Rail Industry to Employ New Technologies

National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker recently told the rail transportation industry to take advantage of newly emerging technologies that can provide the biggest safety improvements in coming years.

Speaking on Monday to the International Railroad Safety Conference in Denver, Colorado, Rosenker acknowledged the improving safety trends in the railroad industry over recent decades--since 1980, employee fatalities are down 82 percent and grade crossing fatalities down 59 percent. But accidents continue to occur, and the nation is still shocked by the collision in Chatsworth, California last month that killed 25 and injured more than 100.

According to Rosenker, although there is a lot of work that needs to be done before the Safety Board determines a probable cause of that tragedy. Rosenker told the assembly that new technologies can provide some of the biggest safety improvements. Primarily among these is Positive Train Control (PTC) systems, "which can provide safety redundancy to override mistakes by human operators and prevent train collisions and over-speed derailments," he said. PTC has been on NTSB's Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements for 18 years. In particular, Rosenker said, NTSB has recommended that priorities be established for the installation of PTC in high-risk corridors, such as those where commuter and intercity passenger trains operate.

"It is time for the entire industry to commit to the development and implementation of positive train control systems," Rosenker said. "You, the industry, must now agree on a format that allows interoperability between systems so that trains can seamlessly move from one railroad to another."

A copy of Acting Chairman Rosenker's speech is available at http://ntsb.gov/speeches/rosenker/mvr081006.html.

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