07.30.18

STANDING AT NEW ROCHELLE TRAIN STATION IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY, SCHUMER URGES METRO-NORTH TO IMMEDIATELY PROVIDE CUSTOMERS & RESIDENTS WITH RAILROAD’S TIMELINE TO FULLY INSTALL LIFE-SAVING POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL; SENATOR SAYS METRO-NORTH HAS HAD AMPLE TIME AND MONEY AND MUST PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS TO GET THIS DONE

Despite Numerous Reassurances Over the Years, Metro-North Says They Will Yet Again Ask Regulators For More Time to Install PTC; Senator Says Railroad Should Have Already Had This Done; Metro-North Has Not Provided Customers, Residents, and Workers With New Timeline  

Schumer To Metro-North: Enough Is Enough, It’s Time To Be Honest With The Public For When To Expect PTC Installed

Standing at the New Rochelle train station in Westchester County, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on the Metro-North Commuter Railroad to immediately publish their new, delayed schedule for the full implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC). Schumer said the railroad must provide the public with the full details of the new PTC schedule, so that customers, employees, and residents of the communities served by Metro-North will be able to continue holding the railroad accountable. Schumer’s push comes in the wake of Metro-North’s announcement that they would be submitting a request to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for an “alternative schedule” to implement this life-saving technology that can prevent deadly train crashes and derailments. Schumer discussed how these new developments were deeply troubling, considering that Metro-North has already been given more than enough time and money to install PTC.

“It is disturbing and disappointing to learn that yet again, Metro-North is asking for more time to complete the full implementation of critical and life-saving Positive Train Control technology. 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 this to keep happening,” said Senator Schumer. “So, today I’m saying to Metro-North, enough is enough. The time has come to be transparent, share your new, delayed timeline with the people who rely on your services, and do every single thing in your power to install this technology that can, and will, save lives.”

“The installation of Positive Train Control is imperative to hundreds of thousands of daily commuters and to communities like New Rochelle that rely on a safe and efficient mass transit system. I thank Senator Schumer for his unwavering commitment to getting this lifesaving technology installed and urge Metro-North to be responsive and transparent as this vital process moves forward,” said New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson.

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, which is on Metro-North’s Hudson Line, in the Bronx in which four lives were lost.

Schumer added, more than 86 million riders used Metro-North in 2017 and that the Hudson Valley is home to 71 Metro-North stations including 7 in Putnam County, 9 in Dutchess County, 5 in Rockland County, 7 in Orange County, and finally 43 in Westchester County.

Ten years ago, in 2008, 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 Metro-North, failed to meet that deadline. As a result, under the PTC Enforcement and Implementation Act, Congress extended the deadline to December 31, 2018. Last week, Metro-North announced that they would be submitting a request for an “alternative schedule” from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for PTC implementation, once again asking regulators for additional time.

According to Schumer, learning that 10 years was not enough time for Metro-North to implement PTC was an alarming development, at best. Schumer explained that it was especially concerning, as in numerous conversations, Metro-North had repeatedly claimed that they would meet the December deadline. Schumer said that passengers and employees who rely on Metro-North cannot afford any more delays in the full implementation of PTC, and that Metro-North must do everything in their power to complete the installation of this life-saving technology.

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, which now appears to be unlikely. Further, in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Schumer helped secure $863 million in rail grants in which railroads like Metro-North could apply to support the implementation of PTC, make rail infrastructure improvements, and restore or enhance passenger rail service.

Schumer has long been an advocate for PTC and rail safety. In May, 2017 Schumer announced 33 million in federal funding to install Positive Train Control (PTC) on train tracks connecting Poughkeepsie to just west of Schenectady. In 2016, Schumer brought now former Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg to Schenectady to make a personal case for a federal grant. And earlier this year in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Schumer helped secure $863 million in rail grants in which railroads like Metro-North could apply to support the implementation of PTC, make rail infrastructure improvements, and restore or enhance passenger rail service.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to Metro-North appears below:

Dear Ms. Rinaldi:

I write to request Metro-North immediately publish to the public the railroad’s new, delayed timeline for full implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) after statements last week that Metro-North will be submitting a request for an “alternative schedule” from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). PTC is a lifesaving technology that must be implemented as soon as possible and further delays are simply unacceptable. Metro-North has received considerable assistance in achieving PTC implementation, including a 3 year extension of the original 2015 Congressional deadline and a federal loan of nearly $1 billion to the MTA to aid in the deployment of this technology. With that in mind, to learn now that Metro-North is once again asking regulators for additional time is deeply troubling.

As you know, in 2008, Congress required all railroad main lines with regularly scheduled commuter rail passenger service to fully implement Positive Train Control (PTC) by December 31, 2015. Despite repeated urging from members of Congress, including myself, many railroads failed to meet that deadline and as a result Congress extended the deadline to December 31, 2018. Now to learn that 10 years may not be enough time for Metro-North and that the railroad plans to request even more time is alarming at best. It’s even more concerning in light of numerous previous conversations on the subject where Metro-North had made it clear that they would meet the 2018 deadline. Passengers and employees that rely on Metro-North cannot afford any delay in the full implementation of PTC, and Metro-North must do everything in its power to complete this installation of this life-saving technology.

In 2015, I 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.  Further, in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, I helped secure $863 million in rail grants in which railroads like Metro-North could apply to support the implementation of PTC, make rail infrastructure improvements, and restore or enhance passenger rail service. The nearly $1 billion in RRIF financing and access to rail grants enables both these commuter rail lines to swiftly install and implement the lifesaving technology that will increase safety for Metro-North customers, employees, and residents of the communities served by the railroads.

PTC is a communications and signaling system that can be used on railroads to prevent collisions caused by excessive speed and human error. PTC is used to monitor train speeds and prevent collisions and derailments by controlling train movements through a system of integrated command, control, communications, and information technologies. 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, like the 2013 Spuyten Duyvil crash in the Bronx in which four lives were lost and the derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia in 2015 in which eight lives were lost and hundreds injured. 

I appreciate your attention to this issue and look forward to Metro-North sharing with the public the new, delayed timeline for the implementation of PTC so that customers, employees, and resident of the communities served by Metro-North will be able to continue to hold the railroad accountable. Should you need further information please do not hesitate to contact my office.

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