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Sen. Schumer Calls For Life-Saving Improvements In Rail Technology

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, left, and Charles Schumer announce new railroad safety legislation Sunday at Grand Central Terminal. Photo Credit: Richard Blumenthal via Twitter @SenBlumenthal
Four people were killed in a Metro-North accident near Spuyten Duyvil in December 2013. Photo Credit: File

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- After what they called "unacceptable delays" in adopting life-saving rail technology, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are introducing of the Positive Train Control Safety Act to make improvements on Metro-North and other railroads across the country.

The bill would require railroads to install additional safety technology by 2018 to prevent crashes due to speed and human error, the senators said Sunday in an announcement at Grand Central Terminal.

It would ensure railroads are moving forward to install Positive Train Control technology.

“Once fully implemented, Positive Train Control will help prevent fatal crashes, like the one that occurred at Spuyten Duyvil as well as derailment of oil cars, and so, it’s of the utmost importance that all railroads quickly install this life-saving technology,” said Schumer.

“The Positive Train Control Safety Act will not only require railroads, both passenger and freight trains, to implement PTC by 2018, it will also ensure PTC be installed on routes carrying dangerous crude oil or ethanol, which will help prevent future explosive accidents," he said.

"The legislation makes sure railroads are transparent about their efforts and requires regular status updates on implementation. Congress must pass this legislation so that railroads speed up implementation of this important new technology that will help slow down trains in event of an emergency.”

Other efforts in Congress would give railroads an additional five years to implement the technology, but the said that is too long to wait.

“Safety has been derailed and delayed—and that’s no way to run a railroad. This bill takes important steps to improve safety and reliability, including implementing realistic and aggressive Positive Train Control deadlines, upgrading rail inspection practices, enhancing grade crossings and work zones—addressing repeated reports of lax and lagging oversight and inspection, inadequate maintenance causing numerous fatal and catastrophic accidents," Blumenthal said.

"New technology can stop crashes and save lives—but has been resisted by railroads. The technology—no longer even new—should be implemented as soon as possible to prevent needless loss of dollars and lives.

“This bill will hold railroads’ feet to the fire and ensure they’re moving forward fast to install PTC. ... The need for PTC – critical, life-saving technology – was first made clear in 1969 when two trains hit head on in Darien, Connecticut. Since that tragedy, there have been dozens of crashes that PTC could have prevented. ...

"Sadly, despite these incidents, PTC technology is still absent. ... Riders and workers should not be put at risk simply because railroads can’t get their act together.”

The Positive Train Control Safety Act would establish a timeline for and increase transparency of implementation of Positive Train Control,. The legislation would also require increased coordination between government agencies, protect employees in work zones, improve opportunities for railroad employees to report safety deficiencies, and improve commuter railroad inspection practices.

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