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Virginia Rail Express Adding Safety Technology to Rail Lines

Work is continuing in Virginia to install Positive Train Control (PTC) onto railroad tracks that experts say could have prevented many recent, fatal train accidents, such as in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Virginia Rail Express (VRE), a popular commuter rail line in the state and in the metro Washington DC area, stated in early March 2017 that it is on track to have all trains and cab cars outfitted with PTC in the next few months. 

VRE trains are on CSX and Norfolk Southern tracks in Virginia, and Chief Executive Officer of the VRE, Doug Allen, stated last week that the commuter rail line is working with both rail companies to get PTC done.

Allen noted in a press conference that VRE is installing radios and computers, which communicate constantly with the systems being installed on all tracks. Once the system is fully operational, it will be able to stop or slow a train automatically to avoid a train crash or train derailment.

Several recent train crashes on the East Coast have highlighted the need for PTC.

In May 2015, an Amtrak train was going too fast on a curve near Philadelphia. Eight people were killed. In September 2016, a New Jersey Transit train crashed in the Hoboken commuter station, killing one. Many experts believe the train accidents could have been prevented with PTC.

VRE wants to start testing the new PTC systems by September 2017, and hopes to have the system up and running by next year.

Rail operators and rail companies have until Dec. 31, 2018 to have PTC fully operational. 

Our View

Our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys in Virginia are pleased that positive train control is soon to be fully operational on all VRE trains in the Commonwealth. PTC can likely prevent many serious train accidents and derailments that kill and seriously injure many people nearly every year.

Our personal injury rail road accident law firm has handled lawsuits where a train derailed and led to catastrophic personal injuries. Our law firm and co-counsel represented a gas station worker who suffered a traumatic train injury when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his workplace.

The man suffered many serious, orthopedic  injuries and brain damage. The train crash verdict was $60 million with interest, and we were proud to get that case resolved so the victim could get the medical care he needed.

If PTC can prevent those types of disastrous train crashes, the system will be entirely worth the cost.

 

BNSF Railroad Pleads for US Government to Pay for Life Saving Train Technology

A leading freight railroad has been urging Congress to pay for passenger railroad companies to install positive train control or PTC on all passenger trains. 

BNSF Railway has been one of the leading companies promoting the use of PTC, a technology that will slow a train down automatically that is going over the speed limit.

PTC will eventually be required by law for all freight trains. But BNSF says that the efforts for more train safety will be futile if passenger and commuter trains do not have the same technology; all of the various types of trains share the same tracks.

BNSF is actively urging Congress to fund PTC for commuter rail services. The head of BNSF told Congress this month that he fears that a crash will happen where a freight train has PTC but the passenger train does not.

Congress first gave commuter and freight trains until Dec. 31, 2015 to install PTC. This advanced GPS technology can prevent derailments, collisions, crashes and improper train switching.

But railroads struggled to meet the deadlines and lawmakers gave them until the end of 2018 to comply. However, recent train crashes in New Jersey and elsewhere have increased pressure on stakeholders to get PTC done as soon as possible.

Freight trains are getting PTC installed faster than commuter trains. BNSF recently tested 35,000 PTC segments in the last 60 days, and 85% of them had no problems.

Our View

Our railroad accident attorneys have long been advocates of PTC. The idea of positive train control has been around since 2008 when a Metrolink crash in California killed the train operator and two dozen others. In that terrible train crash, the operators was texting a friend on a cell phone, which caused him to run a red light, and tragedy resulted.

President Bush signed a law that would require all railroads to implement PTC systems by the end of 2015. Now the deadline is the end of 2018. We hope it is installed before then because the Federal Railroad Administration states that the system could prevent up to 52 accidents each year.

The new system is expensive and will present both time and financial challenges for railroad companies. But the fact is that the technology will save lives. Also, major freight companies are largely on schedule with PTC. Commuter and passenger trains are lagging, but perhaps with some federal help, they will be able to meet the 2018 deadline as well.

If so, many tragic train crashes, personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits could be avoided.

New Jersey Transit Approves Funds for Postive Train Control

In the wake of a deadly commuter train crash in a busy Hoboken, New Jersey train station, New Jersey Transit has approved a budget that includes funding for large parts of positive train control (PTC) system, which would include an automatic braking system that could automatically stop a train in an emergency situation.

hoboken

New Jersey Transit approved an agreement for leasing radio frequency spectrum, which is an essential part of a PTC system, to cover northern and eastern areas of the railroad in the state. In April, the transit authority worked out a deal to cover the southern, central and western areas.

NJ Transit has until the end of 2018 to fully implement PTC, per the federal deadline for the installation of PTC on all commuter train systems.

When the commuter train in Hoboken crashed, killing one and leaving 100 injured, the NTSB quickly concluded that an automatic braking system may have prevented the disaster. In that crash in late September 2016, the commuter train was rolling into the Hoboken station at a normal 5 MPH, but suddenly increased speed and crashed into the terminal, spraying debris through the waiting crowds of commuters.

It is not yet known why the train sped up; the engineer has no memory of the crash.

When a train derailed in Philidelphia in May 2015, the NTSB also determined quickly that the derailment would have been prevented by PTC.

Our View

Our railroad accident and railroad derailment lawyers are glad that New Jersey Transit is working on installing PTC on its trains and rail lines. PTC could prevent 52 accidents per year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The NTSB also claims that if PTC had been in place, it could have prevented 15 train crashes since 2005 that killed 50 people.

Our personal injury attorneys implore the US and state governments to implement Positive Train Control more quickly. We should be keeping up with countries in Europe and Asia that already have versions of PTC in place.

When train derailments occur, the injuries and deaths are devastating to families. And those derailments can lead to huge personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that can cost the railroad tens of millions of dollars in a jury verdict. PTC is a smart investment.

 

New York Work Train Sideswipes Passenger Train, Injuring 29

A long Island Railroad work train sideswiped a New York passenger train on the evening of Oct. 8, injuring 30. 

While there were no life threatening injuries reported, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano did stated that some of the injuries included broken bones and concussions.

Federal-Employee-Liability

The passenger train involved in the railroad crash was the train that leaves at 8:22 from Penn Station in New York. The rail accident happened after 9 PM. The crash caused the first three cars of the passenger train to derail.

Mangano said the crash happened near a switch, but is was unclear if a switch malfunction led to the crash and derailment.

Our View

Our railroad injury personal injury attorneys based in Virginia are relieved that there were apparently no life threatening injuries in this train crash. However, there were serious personal  injuries reported and we hope all of the injured passengers recover.

As personal injury lawyers who have won record-setting verdicts in train derailment cases, there are far too many train accidents across America that occur due to lapses in safety. Earlier this month, a serious commuter train crash occurred at a busy station in New Jersey, killing one and injuring more than 100.

Human errors usually have something to do with the cause of serious railroad accidents and train collisions. Nonetheless, the railroads are seeking to downsize train crews on commuter railroad  crews to a single engineer or operator but the leaves no fail safe if that person is distracted, falls asleep, or otherwise fails to act appropriately with regard to safety.
A slightly less effective fail safe is positive train control that will automatically stop a train under certain circumstances but the railroads of course have to delayed implementation and tried to water down implementation to less than 100% of the railroad or commuter lines in the nation. The public need not wonder whether positive train control would have made a difference in many of the major railroad and commuter line accidents and tragedies that happened in the last several years.

In both of the train crashes, it appears that safety issues led to serious accidents.  One important safety feature that could prevent some collisions and derailments is Postive Train Control or PTC. This system is based on GPS technology and would automatically stop a train if a collision were imminent. Railroads lobbied Congress to push back the date to install PTC on all commuter trains until 2018. That’s too bad, because it is possible that these two serious train crashes may have been avoided with better safety techology in place.

 

 

 

 

New Jersey Train Station Crash Kills 1, Injures 100

A New Jersey Transit train crashed and derailed as it arrive into Hoboken Terminal just before 9 am on Thursday morning. The rush hour train crash killed one person and injured more than 100. Images posted on social media showed that the train tore through a wall and severely damaged the station, leaving train debris strewn about and twisted metal columns after the wreck.

hoboken

According to witnesses, the train pulled into the station traveling far too fast, overrunning its stopping point. It slammed into a bumper block, went airborne and slammed into a passenger concourse in the terminal. One witness who was in the front car told the media that the train did not appear to slow at all as it came into the station. Another passenger on the train stated that the train did not brake at all when it entered the station.

The woman who died was Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, from Hoboken. She died when she was hit by debris while standing on the platform.

The engineer’s name is Thomas Gallagher, 48, and he was treated and released from a hospital. He is cooperating with investigators on the train accident.

Some federal lawmakers said after the crash that positive train control could have helped avoid this tragedy. The system combines GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor trains and to stop them automatically from crashing, derailing or speeding. New Jersey Transit has not yet installed PTC. The deadline set by Congress to install PTC in all passenger trains has been extended until 2018.

The train’s event recorder has been recovered and NTSB investigators are analyzing its contents.

Our View

Our personal injury attorneys send condolences to the family of the woman who was killed in this tragic Hoboken train derailment and crash. It is too early to speculate about the cause of this train accident, but it is alarming that the train apparently did not slow at all as it entered the train station. Whether the engineer fell asleep, was texting on a cell phone or had a medical emergency, there is little doubt that PTC could have prevented this train accident in Hoboken and could have saved a life and prevented many serious personal injuries.

Positive train control has gotten much attention ever since a 2008 Metrolink train crash in California that killed more than 20 people. President Bush signed a laws that required PTC systems to be installed by the end of 2015, but unfortunately, railroads lobbied to get that deadline extended until 2018.

Other safety experts have pointed out that if the railroads or commuter train companies were required to have two crewmembers in the engine or in the forward car, it would prevent tragedies like this where a single crew member gets distracted or falls asleep.

Our hope is that this train crash will serve as a wake up call for railroads to stop dragging its collective feet and get PTC installed on its trains as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Railroads Sluggish to Adopt Safety Technology as Deadline Passes

Many commuter and freight railroads continue to be slow to adopt safety technology that could prevent deadly crashes and derailments. This is in spite of the fact that that Congress has mandated that railroads install positive train control or PTC. 

trestle

PTC uses digital radio signals, GPS and signals on tracks to monitor the position of trains. It has the ability to automatically stop or slow a train to prevent it from disobeying a signal. This has the potential to prevent derailments and serious accidents, including trains entering tracks that are closed for maintenance.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, some railroads have made some progress, but many others have yet to equip a single train or track with the technology.

Congress passed the law in 2008 which gave railroads seven years to install PTC. Last year that deadline was extended for three more years. But according to Sarah Feinberg, head of the FRA,, railroads should not delay in installing the technology. Every day that goes by without PTC, she said, we are risking another serious train accident.

As of summer 2016, PTC is installed on 9% of freight route lines and 22% of passenger rail lines. Freight railroads  have also outfitted 34% of their locomotives with PTC.

However, progress varies greatly by railroad. BNSF has equipped 3/4 of its locomotives, while Union Pacific has barely equipped any of its locomotives at this point.

Our View

Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia hope that more railroads will get PTC implemented as soon as they can. It seems wrong that the technology exists right now to greatly reduce the chances of train collisions and derailments – thereby saving many lives – yet many railroads are dragging their feet to install PTC. 

They may think they are saving money by not installing PTC, but as this $60 million verdict shows, a train derailment can be extremely costly for a railroad, both in dollar terms and in terms of its professional reputation.

3 Railroad Employees Missing After Head-On Crash in Texas

Two BNSF freight trains slammed into each other on the same track outside of Amarillo TX, with at least one railroad worker injured and three missing. 

According to a spokesman for the Carson County TX sheriff’s office, the chances of finding the missing crew members alive is low.

rail va

The two train crash happened at 8:25 central time on Tuesday near Amarillo. The trains were carrying consumer goods and the wreck happened on the main line, which is called the Southern Transcon that connects Los Angeles with Chicago.

Experts say that while the investigation is in the early stages, it appeared that this type of accident could have been prevented if positive train control technology had been used. Railroads got an extension last year on implementing PTC until 2018, after most railroad were unable to meet a 2015 deadline. The system is designed to stop trains automatically when they are in an incorrect position or do not observe traffic signals.

BNSF stated that it intends to install PTC on the section of track where the accident happened.

Our View

Our hearts go out to the families of the injured and missing men in this train accident. As railroad accident attorneys, we know that many railroads have been delaying the implementation of PTC to save money. As I once wrote, this is an absurd argument when you consider the costs of upgrading safety equipment compared to the costs associated with the type of train crash above.

It is estimated that 20 year installation, testing and maintenance costs for PTC would be as much as $24 billion. That is a great deal of money, but the above wreck is going to cost BNSF millions and millions of dollars in property damages and government fines. Also, there will almost certainly be very expensive wrongful death lawsuits for the men who are missing and presumed dead.

Our railroad accident attorneys think that railroads should put PTC systems into their trains and infrastructure as soon as possible, even if profits are reduced for a few years. Such actions would help railroads to avoid massive lawsuits that can cost them millions of dollars. 

Most Railroads Won’t Meet Deadline For New Safety Technology

By Richard Shapiro, Railroad Accident Attorney

Only a few railroads will come close to meeting a new federal deadline to install new safety technology that may prevent some crashes. Some of those crashes include derailments due to excessive speed, such as the deadly Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia last May. 

Just three railroads have turned in their safety plans to the federal government. This is necessary before they can place the new technology – positive train control (PTC) – into operation. The railroads are BNSF Railway, Metrolink in Lose Angeles, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Amtrak has not yet submitted their plan, but railroad authorities state that they think PTC will be operating in the Northeast Corridor by the end of the year.

The PTC being put into place uses GPS, wireless radio and computer technology to monitor the position of trains and will automatically slow or stop trains that may derail because they are going to fast or are about to crash into another train.

train

A rail safety law that was passed seven years ago gave railroads seven years to install PTC. The technology is expensive, and many railroads did not move quickly. However, the May 12 Amtrak crash, which killed eight and injured at least 200, has spurred the federal government to start to push rail companies to get PTC installed as soon as possible.

As Virginia railroad accident attorneys, we have seen many train derailments occur due to poor maintenance and lax safety standards on the part of railroad companies. About 40% of train derailments in the US are caused by broken rails and track problems, and many others are caused by excessive speed.

A major union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, called this year for rail companies to do more for rail safety and to keep train tracks in proper repair. This is especially important in the case of oil trains; all it takes is one worn out section of track for a major derailment to occur, and this can be a true disaster when dozens of tankers carrying crude oil are involved.

Some companies have been fighting the installation of PTC on oil tanker cars, which we find to be truly unfortunate. The installation of PTC can not only reduce the incidence of oil trains derailing: It could prevent most derailments, such as the Amtrak crash that took so many lives. We hope that all railroad companies will get on board and get PTC installed as soon as possible, and generally do more to increase the safety of the US rail system.