NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Railroad engineering expert Gus Ubaldi says that positive train control technology may not have helped prevent Wednesday morning’s LIRR crash at Atlantic Terminal.
A total of to 104 people were injured when the train jumped the end of the track.
Investigators are focusing on the possibility of operator error in the incident.
Based on initial information, investigators believe the train operator somehow missed the mark when entering the station, failed to brake properly in time and hit the bumper at the end of the platform.
“I don’t want people to think that positive train control is a magic bullet that will prevent all accidents,” Ubaldi said. “I’ve seen editorials that suggest two percent of all railroad accidents might be prevented by positive train control.”
Ubaldi said that a positive train control system can be configured in a variety of ways, including detecting if there’s excessive speed at a certain point. But even if it detects excessive speed, the train operator still has to act.
“It has to determine that you’re going that fast. It has to beep, it has to alert you. You have to take action, and if not, it will take action,” Ubaldi said. “This says to me that we have… why did he miss his mark? Was he distracted by something? Was he not qualified enough? New guy on the territory? This was maybe his first day coming in there? Was he properly trained?”
“This positive train control has a lot of features, but it’s not unlike saying ‘I need the iPhone 8 to call the Fire Department,'” Ubaldi said. “Well, yes, you can call the Fire Department with the iPhone 8, but there’s lesser technology that could also be used to call the Fire Department.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was a “relatively minor accident” even though the front of the train lifted off the tracks after striking the bumping block at the end of the tracks.