Most US rail systems miss safety deadline

Only four of the country’s 41 rail systems required to carry out lifesaving technology to avoid train mishaps satisfied Monday’s deadline, according to the Department of Transportation.

The others– including Amtrak– have either requested or been granted extensions of the deadline.

The technology, called favorable train control, can avoid crashes and derailments. It involves installing equipment on locomotives and tracks that interacts information about the train’s speed along with the position of the train and track switches.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which examines rail accidents, has actually repeatedly called for positive train control. Chairman Robert Sumwalt informed Congress last February that the board has identified 150 accidents, which caused 300 deaths, considering that 1969 that could have been avoided by the innovation.

“I have actually constantly described it as the angel on our shoulder,” said John Hiatt, a previous railroad engineer who is now a private investigator with the Bremseth Law practice, whose clients include railroad employees.

Hiatt informed CNN that Congress, railroads and federal regulators share the blame for the missed due date. In 2008, Congress set a 2015 due date for carrying out the innovation, then extended it until 2018 and required federal regulators to approve extensions until 2020 for railroads that demonstrate progress towards carrying out positive train control.

“The blood is on their hands,” Hiatt stated of Congress.

In December 2017, Transport Secretary Elaine Chao wrote to railroad executives that she was “worried that much of the Nation’s railways should significantly accelerate their efforts” to satisfy the due date.

She recommended the Federal Railroad Administration would not look kindly on more ask for extensions, saying its leaders had actually been directed to “develop an increased level of urgency to underscore the imperative of meeting existing timeline expectations for presenting this crucial rail-safety technology.”

The railway administration subsequently approved 10 exemptions or extensions and is considering demands from the other 27 rail systems that did not meet the deadline, according to the Department of Transportation.

“FRA has sought to accelerate and help with the implementation of PTC,” the department stated in a statement supplied in action to questions from CNN.

The Department of Transportation, the railroad administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are mostly closed due to the partial federal government shutdown.

“There truly are no effects,” Hiatt, the accident private investigator, said of the missed due date.

He believes that rail system operators are “dragging their feet” on installing the expensive technology and are compromising safety. In the meantime, he stated, rail systems could enhance the signs and warnings for train engineers, a relatively inexpensive technique.

Amtrak, one of the nation’s largest commuter rail operators, did not return CNN’s call for talk about Monday. Amtrak is a federally owned corporation however is not subject to the shutdown.

In mid-November, Amtrak requested an extension of the December 31 deadline. The railway administration has not yet ruled on that request. In September, it cautioned that Amtrak was at risk of not getting approved for an extension, however it said in October that the railway was making appropriate progress.

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