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Latest Info Says LIRR & Metro North Will Announce A New Two-Year Extension To Fully Install PTC Technology That Can Stop An Out Of Control Train; Despite Numerous Reassurances Over Many Years, Railroads Admit They Need More Time 

In 2015, Congress Granted Railroads Like LIRR & Metro North Three Year PTC Extension; Senator Says It’s Disconcerting That Metro North & LIRR Are Once Again Looking Like They Need More Time & Urges Them To Not Take Two More Years; NY Passengers Cannot Afford Another Delay

Schumer To LIRR & Metro-North: Put FULL PTC Install On The Real Fast Track Because Two Years Is Too Many

Amidst the five year anniversary-month of the tragic Spuyten Duyvil derailment and with the clock ticking to install life-saving railroading technology Positive Train Control (PTC) before the December 31st 2018 deadline, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, today, called on the LIRR and Metro-North to move heaven and earth and fully install the PTC technology as soon as possible, despite being poised to announce --as soon as this coming Monday-- that it will be possibly two more years before full installation of the life-saving technology is finished.

“Right now, it looks like two things will happen here in New York on December 31st at 11:59pm: the Times Square Ball will drop to ring in the New Year and LIRR and Metro-North will have dropped the ball to fully install Positive Train Control by this year—and the latter is nothing to celebrate,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “That is why with the LIRR and Metro-North poised to announce another two-year extension as soon as Monday, I am imploring the agency to put full PTC installation on the true fast track and not utilize the entirety of the two-year extension they seek, even if that is what the Federal Railroad Administration may allow. In fact, I don’t want the railroads to even use a year because the technology is available and the money has been secured via a billion dollar federal loan I supported. So, there’s simply no reason for the MTA to once again move the goal post.”

“More than 300 people have died and thousands have been injured since the NTSB first recommended the use of Positive Train Control, and it is simply unacceptable that the MTA still hasn’t fully implemented this lifesaving technology despite the mandated deadline of December 31st,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Once fully operational, PTC will help ensure New Yorkers have a safe commute and help keep surrounding communities safe as trains pass through. With the deadline rapidly approaching, the MTA must safely complete PTC implementation for the Metro-North and Long Island Railroads without delay. There should be no more excuses.”

Schumer explained, if a conductor falls asleep at the wheel 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. Schumer and other safety advocates argue that this technology is of the utmost importance and should be fully installed without delay.

Despite PTC having been recommended by safety experts and required by law for nearly a decade, LIRR and Metro-North still may not meet the 2018 Congressional-mandated deadline for implementation of PTC technology. According to the December 2018 LIRR and Metro-North board materials, the railroads have installed just 86 percent and 84 percent, respectively, of the hardware required for its PTC system. Schumer has said that this pace of progress is simply unacceptable as the railroads should be at 100 percent by now, while calling for an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to getting the job done faster. Schumer, today, says that the railroads must move even faster to achieve full PTC installation. , without relying on two more years to achieve full PTC installation.

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 more than sixty people were injured, and a 2008 crash in southern California that killed 25 commuters. 

The Spuyten Duyvil tragedy was the deadliest train accident within New York City since a 1991 subway derailment in lower Manhattan. Reports from the early investigations of the accident indicated that the train was traveling at almost three times the posted speed limit as it turned into the curve where it ultimately derailed. Furthermore, the engineer of the train had fallen into a daze prior to reaching the curve and was later diagnosed with sleep apnea. Schumer reiterated that the PTC technology could have prevented this fatal derailment and corrected human error by automatically slowing down the train.

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 LIRR & Metro-North failed to meet that deadline. As a result, under the PTC Enforcement and Implementation Act, Congress had little choice but to extend the deadline to December 31, 2018 and install statutory fines for rail entities who continue to miss the mark on installation.

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 enables the LIRR and Metro-North to swiftly install and implement PTC by the 2018 deadline.