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December 20, 2015

Amtrak activates PTC safety system between Philadelphia and New York City

It was the last stretch on the Northeast Corridor to get the signal safety equipment

Amtrak this weekend activated a new system – between Philadelphia and New York City – to prevent crashes like the one that killed eight and injured more than 200 passengers and crew members in Port Richmond in May.

It was the final stretch of the Northeast Corridor route to get positive train control, after Amtrak turned on the system between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. in early December, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. It enables the national passenger railroad to meet an end-of-year deadline extended by Congress after protests by other rail operators.

SEPTA, for one, will meet the new deadline, the Journal reported:

Philadelphia’s commuter-train system expects to have its PTC system running by the end of January, said Jeffrey Knueppel, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA.
“There’s different circumstances for everybody,” he said. “Everything broke right for us, and we’re just barely [finishing] right around the original mandate.”

PTC is the next generation of signal safety equipment designed to reduce the chance of human error and automatically prevent train-to-train collisions and over-speed derailments. For example, it can reduce the speed of a train before it heads through a curve requiring a slowdown, or assume control if the engineer operating the train is disabled or distracted.

On May 12, 2015, New York-bound Amtrak Train 188 derailed on a sharp curve at Frankford Junction in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. Investigators determined the train was traveling at 102 miles an hour, more than twice the speed limit.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, passed by Congress that year, mandated that all passenger and freight railroads in the United States install Positive Train Control by Dec. 31, 2015.

Read the full story by the Journal.