Feinstein: Railroads must install collision avoidance system

McClatchy InteractiveDecember 5, 2013 

An Amtrak Capitol Corridor train from Sacramento, Calif., arrives at Diridon Station in San Jose on Aug. 10, 2012. Amtrak's California corridors have the highest ridership in the country outside the Northeast. Curtis Tate/MCT


Noting similarities between a fatal weekend commuter train derailment in New York and an accident in California that killed 25 people five years ago, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Thursday that the nation's rail operators must install a collision avoidance system by the end of 2015.

"Sunday's crash was preventable," Feinstein wrote Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Feinstein wrote the bill that requires railroads to install the system, called Positive Train Control, and opposes giving them more time to install it. It would automatically stop a train if the engineer fails to obey a signal or exceeds the posted speed.

Four rail systems, Metrolink, Amtrak, Alaska Railroad and BNSF, will meet the 2015 deadline. Other railroads have lobbied Congress for a five-year delay.

Congress required the safety improvements after a Metrolink commuter train collided head on with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., in 2008. Two dozen passengers and the engineer died.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that the train's lone engineer had been texting and may have missed a red signal.

Four people died Sunday when a Metro-North train jumped the tracks on a sharp curve in the Bronx. The NTSB has already determined that the train hit the 30 mph curve at 82 mph.

Feinstein said Positive Train Control would have prevented both crashes, and should not be delayed.

"Positive Train Control will save lives when it is deployed, and every day of delay leaves in place a 19th century signaling system dependent entirely on the attention of each train's lone engineer," she wrote Rockefeller.

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