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Senate bill would require freight, commuter railroads to implement PTC


In light of last week's Metrolink/Union Pacific Railroad train collision in California — which killed 25 people and injured 138 — Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation that would require all major U.S. railroads to install positive train control (PTC) systems.

National Transportation Safety Board officials have said that a PTC system could have prevented the crash.

The Rail Collision Prevention Act (S. 3493) would require freight and commuter railroads to develop plans for PTC systems within one year of the bill's enactment.

The legislation also would:
• set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2012, for the systems to be in place on rail lines designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as high risk, and those used by major freight and commuter railroads;
• set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2014, for installation of PTC on all major rail lines, with priority given to passenger-rail lines or those used to transport hazardous materials; and
• authorize the U.S. transportation secretary to assess fines up to $100,000 for railroads that fail to comply.

"It should be totally unacceptable to the American people that we have rail systems in which two trains gong in opposite directions share a single track — with only a signal light to stop a collision — when technology exists to prevent a crash," said Feinstein in a prepared statement.

However, PTC systems aren't yet ready to be implemented on all railroads, said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman during a press conference held earlier this week. The various systems are not inter-operable, have to be adapted to stop trains of different size and weight, and are very costly, he said. In addition, railroads must secure radio frequencies for the systems.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/18/2008