Wednesday, December 4, 2013
 

 

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Push is on for low-interest federal loans for railroad safety equipment

WASHINGTON – Following Sunday’s fatal Metro-North train derailment, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY18) said on Tuesday he would introduce legislation to provide low-interest federal loans for railroads to implement positive train control systems.

The NTSB says the ill-fated train was doing 82 miles per hour seconds before it hit the curve and derailed in the Bronx. Maloney said such a computerized system would prevent such occurrences from happening.

“The idea is that if the operator is not paying attention or in the event of a terrorist episode, an episode of something has happened to the engineer, you could have a distracted engineer, the idea is that the train would automatically slow in a situation exactly like Sunday’s,” he said.

The MTA has signed a contract for positive control last month, Maloney said.

NTSB Board Member Earl Weener later Tuesday  said those positive train control systems are “proven technology” that provides “a safety redundancy” and would probably have prevented the derailment.

The MTA said it has been working on positive train control for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road since 2009. To date, the agency has budgeted almost $600 million for elements of the installation, including a $428 million procurement last month for a system integrator, said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.

Meeting a 2015 federal deadline, though, will be difficult for the MTA and other railroad systems, he said.

“Much of the technology is still under development and is untested and unproven for commuter railroads the size and complexity of Metro-North and LIRR, and all of the radio spectrum necessary to operate PTC has not been made available,” Donovan said. “The MTA will continue its efforts to install PTC as quickly as possible, and will continue to make all prudent and necessary investments to keep its network safe.”

There already is $35 billion in financing set aside for Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement, but Maloney said it is unclear if the positive train control technology would be eligible. In addition, currently positive train control, by law, must be installed by 2015. Maloney would like it funded and implemented as soon as possible.