Skip to content


Automatic Train Control, A Safety System That Could Have Lessened The Impact of The Recent Amtrak Derailment, Wasn't Turned On Along Dangerous Philadelphia Curve and Could Still Not Be On Throughout NY – Today, Schumer Announced He Has Successfully Urged FRA To Ensure System Is Installed And Implemented On Other Rail Lines In Upstate NY 

Schumer Says FRA Will Work with Railroads to Ensure Automatic Train Control is Operational on Dangerous Curves Throughout New York and Country and Remains In Place Until More Robust Positive Train Control is Installed

Schumer: FRA Is Taking An Important Lesson from Amtrak Derailment and Applying It Throughout Upstate NY

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Federal Railroad Administration has heeded his call and issued a safety advisory recommending that the safety system called Automatic Train Control (ATC) – which could have lessened the impacts of the recent Amtrak derailment be implemented along dangerous curves and routes for trains traveling throughout Upstate New York and across the country. Following the derailment in Philadelphia, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) instructed Amtrak to turn ATC on at the curve in Philadelphia that caused the derailment.

Today, Schumer announced that following his call the FRA has issued a Safety Advisory instructing railroads to make sure the safety system is turned on and installed along rail lines and, if the system is not installed, to ensure that the train operates with two qualified crew members in the cab of the train, to enhance safety and avoid driver distraction. In addition, the FRA instructed railroads to install additional wayside signage alerting engineers to speed restrictions. Following Schumer’s push these safety improvements will not just be made along the Northeast Corridor, they will also be made on other passenger rail lines throughout the country, including the Hudson Valley, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

“After the tragic derailment in Philadelphia, the FRA has wisely responded to our call to immediately establish Automatic Train Control as a vital interim safety measure in Upstate New York and beyond. And, if the system is not installed, the FRA will require that the train operates with two qualified crew members to enhance safety and avoid driver distraction. When it comes to rail safety, ATC is not the whole enchilada of positive train control, but it is an immediately achievable safety improvement that lessens the chance of another fatal derailment,” said Schumer. “I am pleased the FRA will work with Amtrak and the freight railroads to determine where else outside of the Northeast Corridor – in places like the Hudson Valley, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo – we can install ATC and ensure it is functioning properly.”

The FRA recommended today, after the urging of Senator Schumer,  that passenger railroads should immediately take the following actions to control passenger train speeds:

  • Identify locations where there is a reduction of more than 20 mph from the approach speed to a curve or bridge and the maximum authorized operating speed for passenger trains at that curve or bridge.
  • Modify Automatic Train Control (ATC) systems (if in use) to ensure compliance with speed limits.
  • If the railroad does not use ATC, ensure that all passenger train movements through the identified locations be made with a second qualified crew member in the cab of the controlling locomotive, or with constant communication between the locomotive engineer and an additional qualified and designated crewmember in the body of the train.
  • Install additional wayside signage alerting engineers and conductors of the maximum authorized passenger train speed throughout the passenger railroad’s system, with particular emphasis on additional signage at the identified locations.

Schumer explained in prior announcements that a more robust safety system called Positive Train Control (PTC) is still as many as five years away from being operational in Upstate New York. Therefore, Schumer urged FRA to work with railroads, including Amtrak and the freight lines, in the interim to ensure a less robust system called Automatic Train Control (ATC) is installed and operational where needed on all passenger rail lines. ATC, while not as effective as PTC, could still have helped slow down and lessen the impacts of the speeding Amtrak train that derailed last week, as well as the Metro-North train that derailed at Spuyten-Duyvil in 2013. Following both of those derailments FRA instructed Amtrak and Metro-North to conduct a review to ensure ATC was installed and turned on along dangerous curves on Amtrak’s Washington, DC – Boston line (Northeast Corridor) and the Metro-North lines – but no such review has happened to other rail lines throughout Upstate New York, including along the Empire Service route.

Schumer has consistently said that installing ATC should not take away from overall efforts to get the more robust PTC system up and running.  Following the derailment Amtrak announced that PTC would be operational on the NEC by the end of this year, however that would only amount to 363 miles of the total 21,000 miles traveled by Amtrak trains. The remainder of the system would take far longer because in those sections, including along the Empire Corridor, Amtrak trains run along freight rail lines and those railroads have estimated that it could take another five years before it is installed. Thus, given these constraints ATC is an appropriate additional safety measure that could be installed while PTC is still in the process of being implemented.