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Blumenthal, Schumer: Despite Recent Rail Crashes, Like Spuyten Duyvil & Derailment of Dangerous Oil Cars, Positive Train Control, Best Way to Prevent Dangerous Crashes, Has Not Yet Been Implemented; Senators Introduce Legislation Requiring PTC by 2018, For Both Passenger & Freight Trains Carrying Hazardous Oil Cars

Schumer, Blumenthal Announce Legislation That Will Require Railroads to Implement PTC by 2018 & Require Status Reports on Progress; ‘Positive Train Control Safety Act’ Also Requires Trains Carrying Crude Oil Run On Tracks With PTC, Aiming to Avoid Future Explosive Crashes 

Schumer, Blumenthal Legislation Stands in Contrast to Other Efforts in Congress to Give Railroads an Additional 5 Years to Implement Life-Saving PTC Technology; Senators Say 5 Years is Far Too Long to Wait for This Key Technology

Schumer, Blumenthal: When Fully Implemented, PTC Can Help Prevent Fatal Crashes & This Legislation Will Help Ensure this Life-Saving Technology is Implemented Quickly

(Hartford, CT) - Following unacceptable delays in adoption of life-saving technology, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today announced the Positive Train Control Safety Act. This major rail safety bill ensures railroads are moving forward swiftly to install Positive Train Control technology (PTC), following repeated delays in implementation of this critical technology. The bill also takes important steps to improve rail inspection practices, and enhance safety at grade crossings and work zones following reports of lax inspection and oversight, and numerous fatal and catastrophic accidents. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are also sponsors of the bill.

PTC is a communications and signaling system that can be used on railroads to prevent collisions caused by excessive speed and human error. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found dozens of passenger and freight rail accidents over the years could have been prevented through the use of PTC, including the 2013 Spuyten Duyvil crash in the Bronx in which four lives were lost and a 2008 crash in southern California that killed 25 commuters. 

“Once fully implemented, Positive Train Control, will help prevent fatal crashes, like the one that occurred at Spuyten Duyvil as well as derailment of oil cars, and so, it’s of the utmost importance that all railroads quickly install this life-saving technology,” said Schumer. “ The Positive Train Control Safety Act will not only require railroads, both passenger and freight trains, to implement PTC by 2018, it will also ensure PTC be installed on routes carrying dangerous crude oil or ethanol, which will help prevent future explosive accidents. The legislation makes sure railroads are transparent about their efforts and requires regular status updates on implementation. Congress must pass this legislation so that railroads speed up implementation of this important new technology that will help slow down trains in event of an emergency.”

“Safety has been derailed and delayed—and that’s no way to run a railroad. This bill takes important steps to improve safety and reliability, including implementing realistic and aggressive Positive Train Control deadlines, upgrading rail inspection practices, enhancing grade crossings and work zones—addressing repeated reports of lax and lagging oversight and inspection, inadequate maintenance causing numerous fatal and catastrophic accidents. New technology can stop crashes and save lives—but has been resisted by railroads. The technology—no longer even new—should be implemented as soon as possible to prevent needless loss of dollars and lives,” Blumenthal said. “This bill will hold railroads’ feet to the fire and ensure they’re moving forward fast to install PTC, receiving deadline extensions only on a case by case basis and year by year, and only if factual evidence shows a valid, credible need for more time. The need for PTC – critical, life-saving technology – was first made clear in 1969 when two trains hit head on in Darien, Connecticut. Since that tragedy, there have been dozens of crashes that PTC could have prevented – including the Spuyten Duvyil disaster in 2013 in which four lives were lost. Sadly, despite these incidents, PTC technology is still absent, and railroads and some in Congress want a blanket extension of the deadline. Riders and workers should not be put at risk simply because railroads can’t get their act together.”

The Positive Train Control Safety Act would establish a timeline for and increase transparency of implementation of Positive Train Control, as well as evaluate the effectiveness of PTC at grade crossings and ensure trains carrying crude oil or ethanol run on tracks with PTC. The legislation would also require increased coordination between government agencies, protect employees in work zones, improve opportunities for railroad employees to report safety deficiencies, and improve commuter railroad inspection practices.