Train safety should not be delayed

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The deadly wreck of a train that was carrying passengers along a Washington, D.C. to New York route on May 12 would likely have been prevented by a positive train control system that the federal government has mandated to be in place by the end of 2015. The system uses transponders on the tracks to communicate with controls on a passing locomotive. If the train is moving too fast, the system slows it down.

Even a less technologically advanced automatic braking system for trains would likely have prevented the wreck. That system was installed for trains on this route over the weekend as a temporary measure before positive train controls are installed.

The positive train controls are not expected to be in place by the deadline and extensions have been requested. Perhaps the Department of Transportation should not shut down service completely on non-compliant lines, but there should be consequences for not meeting the deadline, which grows larger as the delays drag on.

The consequences of not acting are clearly unacceptable.