IN WAKE OF FRA WARNING LETTER TO METRO-NORTH, SCHUMER RENEWS PUSH TO GET MTA TO FINALLY COMPLETE INSTALLATION OF LIFE-SAVING POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL TECHNOLOGY; SENATOR SAYS HUDSON VALLEY/NYC COMMUTERS DESERVE A SAFE, RELIABLE, & CONVENIENT TRAIN RIDE TO NYC
New FRA Letter Says Metro-North Had Installed Just 63% Of The Hardware Required For Its PTC System At The End Of Last Year; “That’s A Failing Grade,” Says Schumer; Feds Deeply Concerned That 2018 Deadline Will Not Be Met
Schumer To MTA: Get PTC On Track And Meet Congressionally-Mandated Deadline
In the wake of a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) letter to Catherine Rinaldi, president of MTA Metro-North Commuter Railroad, reported by the Journal News, articulating concerns that Metro-North will not implement required life-saving Positive Train Control (PTC) technology on time, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to work faster to install PTC on its two commuter rail systems, Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad.
Despite PTC having been recommended by safety experts and required by law for nearly a decade, FRA is expressing concerns that Metro-North still may not meet the 2018 Congressional-mandated deadline for implementation of PTC technology. According to the letter from FRA Metro-North had installed just 63 percent of the hardware required for its PTC system, by the end of 2017. Schumer today said that this pace of progress is simply unacceptable, and the senator called for an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to getting the job done immediately.
“The last time I checked 63% was a failing grade. Yet that is the percentage of the required and life-saving PTC system that FRA says Metro-North had installed in its last quarterly progress report. That is just not good enough for the commuters who ride this system every day, and Metro north must step up its game ASAP to meet the looming deadline,” said Senator Schumer.
“Getting PTC installed as soon as possible should be at the top of Metro-North’s priority list,” added Schumer. “With a mandated deadline quickly approaching it’s alarming that the Federal Railroad Administration is still raising concerns about the pace of progress at Metro-North. The technology is available and the money for installation is in place, including via a billion dollar federal loan I supported, so there’s simply no reason for Metro-North not to meet the Positive Train Control deadline.”
PTC is a communications and signaling system that can be used on railroads to prevent collisions caused by excessive speed and human error. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found dozens of passenger and freight rail accidents over the years could have been prevented through the use of PTC, including the 2015 derailment of an Amtrak in Philadelphia in which eight lives were lost, a 2013 Spuyten Duyvil crash in the Bronx in which four lives were lost, and a 2008 crash in southern California that killed 25 commuters.
Schumer continued: “If an engineer falls asleep or if a train is on a section of the tracks where another train is approaching, PTC would automatically slow down the train in order to prevent a collision. Once fully implemented, PTC will help prevent fatal crashes, on passenger and freight trains, so it’s of the utmost importance that Metro-North gets back on track and quickly install this life-saving technology by the end of next year.”
Nearly ten years ago, Congress required all railroad main lines with regularly scheduled commuter rail passenger service as well as Class I railroad main lines handling poisonous-inhalation-hazard materials to fully implement PTC by the end of 2015. However, many railroad entities, including the MTA, failed to meet that deadline. As a result, under the PTC Enforcement and Implementation Act, Congress extended the deadline to December 31, 2018.
Moreover, in 2015, Schumer helped to secure a low-cost, federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for $976.1 million to be used by the MTA and its railroads for PTC implementation. The FRA gives RRIF priority to projects that provide public benefits, including benefits to public safety such as PTC. The nearly $1 billion in RRIF financing should enable the LIRR and Metro-North to swiftly install and implement PTC by the 2018 deadline.
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