NTSB Spotlights Positive Train Control

The day before its Feb. 27 public forum in Washington, D.C., the safety board will conduct a hearing on a head-on collision of two Union Pacific trains in June 2012.

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a public forum on Positive Train Control on Feb. 27, one of two events that week with the technology as the centerpiece. The forum is titled "Positive Train Control: Is it on Track?" and will gather experts to discuss PTC and the regulatory and operational status.

"Over forty years since the NTSB issued its first recommendation addressing collision avoidance technologies on the railroad and after years of dialogue with industry officials, we continue to investigate accidents where PTC could have prevented the accident and saved lives," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said.

An example is the collision to be examined Feb. 26 by the board in a hearing that likewise will be held in the NTSB Conference Center in Washington, D.C. Two Union Pacific freight trains collided head-on June 24, 2012, at about 10 a.m., while operating on a straight track near Goodwell, Okla. Three of the four crewmembers aboard the two trains died, but the fourth jumped from one of the locomotives prior to the collision and survived with no major injuries. According to NTSB, damage was estimated at $14.79 million.

"Although this investigation is still ongoing, factual information indicates that if positive train control had been in use, the safety technology designed to supplement the human operation of trains, it could have prevented the collision," according to its meeting announcement, which says the board will examine UP's management of human error in its operations and its system safety programs. Parties to the investigation include FRA, Union Pacific Railroad, the United Transportation Union, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen.

PTC has been on the board's Most Wanted List of safety improvements since 1990.

Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 after a high-profile collision killed 25 people in Chatsworth, Calif., including in it a requirement that Class I railroads and regularly scheduled intercity and commuter rail passenger carriers submit plans for implementing a PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2015.

"As the industry prepares to make substantial infrastructure investments, this is a timely opportunity to engage in the dialogue and advocate for this important safety enhancement," Hersman said.

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