POLITICS
05/14/2015 01:44 pm ET Updated May 14, 2015

176 Miles Of Amtrak Rails Between D.C. And N.Y. Lack Key Safety System

WASHINGTON -- A key safety system is not in service on 176 miles of rail between Washington, D.C., and New York, Amtrak reported Thursday. Experts say this system could have prevented the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia that killed at least eight people this week.

The technology is called positive train control (PTC) and it slows down trains on curves. For example, if an engineer doesn't comply with the programmed speeds, he or she will get a warning, and if the engineer still doesn't slow down, the system will brake the train.

Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, which was traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York, derailed Tuesday night after hitting a curve while traveling at more than 100 mph, twice the speed limit. National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday that if positive train control had been installed in that section of the track, "the accident would not have occurred."

That technology is installed and in service on all of the New Haven-Boston leg, and two other segments south of New York, Amtrak reported. Installation is "largely complete south of Newark" but only in service on 50 miles of the 226-mile route between Washington and New York.

Amtrak said it is "on schedule" to have PTC installed in the Northeast Corridor by December 2015.

National implementation of the technology has been subject to delays. In March, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted to extend the deadline until at least 2020, Reuters reported.

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