New LIRR Trains Do Not Set Aside Enough Space for Positive Train Control Safety Equipment

Long Island Rail Road officials said they did not set aside enough space to fit federally mandated positive train control (“PTC”) equipment into the railroad’s next generation of trains.  The railroad’s specifications for designated 8 cubic feet per car for PTC, but the hardware requires 17 cubic feet per car.  Rather than PTC equipment being seamlessly integrated into their design, 256 new M9 trains will have to be retrofitted, an error that could increase costs and delay the arrival of the new M9 electric trains, set to roll out in 2018.

The LIRR’s explanation for the failure to have enough space on the new trains is that although the federal requirement for the technology was already in place when the LIRR completed its specifications for the new cars, the MTA did not know at the time the specific dimensions of the PTC equipment and guessed at the required space.

PTC allows computerized systems to automatically control certain aspects of train movement. Radio transponders installed on tracks and on trains communicate with each other to automatically slow down or stop a train if it is going too fast, is about to hit another train, or violates a signal.

PTC is intended to remove the possibility of human error in several potentially deadly situations: train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive train speed, trains accidentally traveling into areas where track workers are working, or the movement of a train through an improperly aligned switch.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have said PTC could have prevented several fatal accidents, including the May derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia and the December 2013 Metro-North derailment in Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx.

The implementation of the technology includes the installation of on-board components for rail cars and for transponders alongside the tracks. The LIRR said it plans to begin testing PTC on segments of its Port Washington and Babylon lines within the next three months.

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