Thursday, March 20, 2014

Positive Train Control

Orange County and the Inland Empire share a regional train system, Metrolink. So although I initially learned about this from the Orange County Transportation Authority, it is equally applicable here in the Inland Empire.

Positive Train Control is an innovation that is being implemented on Metrolink trains, as detailed here.

Positive Train Control (PTC) is GPS-based safety technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursion into work zones and train movement through switches left in the wrong position*. PTC monitors and, if necessary, controls train movement in the event of human error. PTC may also bring trains to a safe stop in the event of a natural disaster.

The actual implementation is just beginning.

[I]n February 2014, Metrolink received authorization from the Federal Railroad Administration that it could begin operating PTC in Revenue Demonstration Service (RSD) under the authority of the BNSF Railway. On February 17, Metrolink ran the first successful RSD on the 91 Line, and on February 20, the PTC RSD was publically unveiled, with multiple VIPs and news media in attendance.

It is currently anticipated that Metrolink will conduct RSD on the San Bernardino Line in the fall of 2014, and that the entire system will be PTC operational by early to mid-2015, well before the current federal deadline of December 31, 2015.

Sadly, there is a reason why Metrolink has an incentive to implement this before the national deadline.

On Sept. 12, 2008, a Connex engineer operating a Metrolink train failed to stop at a red signal, causing a collision with a Union Pacific freight train. In this tragic incident, 25 lives were lost and another 135 people were injured. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein led Congress in adopting the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which mandated the installation of PTC by the end of 2015. The Metrolink Board of Directors committed to implementing PTC in advance of the federal deadline to ensure Southern Californians are among the first in the nation to benefit from this life-saving technology.

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