Metro-North Train Derailment Raises Questions About Technology

Safety Officials Say Positive Train Control Could Have Prevented Crash

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s committed to finding extra funding to implement the system.

“We will get it done. Yes, one way or another we’ll get it done,” he said Tuesday.

Los Angeles commuter rail director Richard Katz said time is of the essence.

“We believe that every year you delay positive train control, people will die that don’t have to,” he said.

Grady Cothen, a former FRA safety official, said a PTC system would have prevented Sunday’s crash if the brakes were working normally. And Steve Ditmeyer, a former FRA official who teaches at Michigan State University, said the technology would have monitored the brakes and would not have allowed the train to exceed the speed limit.

“A properly installed PTC system would have prevented this train from crashing,” he said. “If the engineer would not have taken control of slowing the train down, the PTC system would have.”

The train that derailed Sunday was configured with its locomotive in the back instead of the front. Weener said that is common, and a train’s brakes work the same way no matter where the locomotive is located. Ditmeyer said the locomotive’s location has virtually no effect on train safety.

Still, some people feel the configuration provides less protection for passengers because if the train hits something, there’s no locomotive in front to absorb the blow, said Bill Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, a riders’ advocacy group.

Cuomo said Tuesday that since the crash, the state has been “taking new precautions to protect the safety of New York commuters.”

“At my direction, the MTA will be implementing a safety stand-down that will require all employees to participate in safety briefings,” he said in a statement.

Sunday’s accident came six months after an eastbound train derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., and was struck by a westbound train. The crash injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor.

In July, a freight train full of garbage derailed on the same Metro-North line near the site of Sunday’s wreckage.

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