First Step Taken to Make Passenger Trains Safer

Metrolink has now installed Positive Train Control Technology on its first train, and the company expects to have all of its trains and tracks covered by the safety technology by the end of the year. We first posted about Positive Train Control in this post and we told you more about it here and here.

There are two remarkable points about the Metrolink roll-out of the Positive Train Control Technology. The first is the price. Metrolink has estimated the cost will total $216 million. While at first blush that is a lot of money, let’s put it in perspective. In 2008, a Metrolink engineer who was busy texting instead of doing his job, ran a red light, and crashed into a freight train. 25 innocent people were killed and the members of their family were devastated. In addition, more than 100 other victims were injured in that completely preventable accident.  Late last year, a New York commuter train was speeding as it entered a sharp curve causing it to derail and kill 4, critically injure 11 and injure another 46 passengers.  If Positive Train Control prevents just one such crash, it would be worth it. Indeed, since human error accounts for roughly 40 percent of all train accidents, Positive Train Control will ultimately be a bargain.

The second remarkable point is the date by which Metrolink expects to complete implementation of the safety system. Metrolink projects it will be done by the end of 2014. Congress has passed legislation which requires railroad companies to implement the technology by 2015. A significant number of railroad companies have balked at the deadline claiming it was not possible.   In fact, there have been discussions about extending the deadline to allow train companies to have more time to achieve compliance with the law.   Since it looks like Metrolink will finish installing the technology a year before the deadline, it seems the feet-draggers just need to shut up and get busy.

There is no word on whether the Music City Star , a passenger train that runs between downtown Nashville and Lebanon, Tennessee and is operated by the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee, will adopt this life-saving technology. If they plan on doing it there has not been a public announcement of the decision – a search of the railroad’s website for "Positive Train Control" yielded "0" hits.  A search for the word "safety" yielded the same result – "0" hits.