NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The New York area has seen derailment after derailment, yet a potentially life saving device still hasn’t been installed on the rails.
CBS2’s Kristine Johnson got a look at the technology and asked the question, ‘why aren’t we braking for safety?’
Millions ride the trains every day, and while we want to get where we’re going fast, we also want to be safe. Yet for more than a decade, a vital, potentially lifesaving device has not been installed on the rails in the New York area.
“As long as human beings are involved in the system, something can always go wrong,” Carl Berkowitz explained.
“This takes that out of the equation,” he said.
‘This’ is positive train control or PTC. It’s an advanced computer system designed to override the engineer and automatically stop a train before certain accidents occur.
If a train operator is moving too fast, PTC will apply brakes.
“Because you barged into the speed restrictions way too fast, it automatically stopped the train,” he explained.
The issue is installing the technology by the end of the year.
The Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North, and Amtrak are making progress, but according to quarterly filing with the Federal Railroad Administration, NJ TRANSIT is lagging the farthest behind.
As of June only 60 out of 1,100 employees actually trained on the system, none of the 326 miles of track actually had this system functioning.
“System is complex, we have eleven different service lines. The number of grade crossings that we have, the number of bridges that we have, the different types of equipment that we have all have different characteristics that need to be programmed,” NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steve Santoro said.
He called PTC the ‘number one safety priority’ for NJ TRANSIT.
All rail lines agree PTC is a priority, and expect to be in compliance with critical testing by December with a complete system roll out by 2020.
To lawmakers, any further delay is simply unacceptable.
“It seems to be they should be much further ahead in terms of positive train control than they are now,” U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) said.
Director Santoro said it remains to be seen if all the work left to do will affect commuters, but with the possibility of lives on the line he said PTC is the priority.
“I’m the executive director, I think about safety every day,” he said. “I’ve committed the agency and all of its staff to prioritize the project and do everything we can to make this project a success and meet the deadline.”
Santoro is stepping down from his position in April. He was in the job for less than 2 years and 18 with the rail line.
Governor Phil Murphy who has openly criticized NJ TRANSIT is said to be ready to nominate Kevin Corbett as the new executive director.
He doesn’t have a transit background, but has worked on projects with the agency.