Rosenker: Excited About Positive Train Control

WASHINGTON – National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker says he welcomes the Federal Railroad Administration’s decision to move forward on a Positive Train Control (PTC) system that can alert crews to dangerous situations and control train speed and movement to avoid collisions.

The system will be installed by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad on 35 specific freight lines in 17 states.

“This is exciting news,” Rosenker said. “The Safety Board has been pushing for the installation of PTC for many years, and I congratulate both the FRA and BNSF for moving ahead. I am confident it will pay great dividends in terms of lives saved and injuries and property damage avoided.”

Over the last three decades, the NTSB has investigated a long list of accidents in which crewmembers failed to operate their trains effectively and in accordance with operating rules for a variety of reasons, including fatigue, sleeping disorders, use of medications, or distractions within the operating cab. Given these human performance deficiencies, the Safety Board has advocated the implementation of a PTC system that compensates for human error and has the capability to prevent collisions.

Because of the NTSB’s longstanding interest in this issue, PTC has remained on the Board’s Most Wanted list of safety improvements since the inception of the list in 1990.

The issue was again highlighted in 2002 when a freight train and a commuter train collided head-on in Placentia, California. As a result of the investigation of this accident, the Board reiterated the need for positive train control systems, particularly on high-risk corridors where commuter and intercity passenger railroads operate.

Most recently, the NTSB found that the lack of a PTC system contributed to a commuter train derailment in Chicago in 2005 that killed two passengers.