Metra announced last month that they are going to spend $100 million to install a Positive Train Control (PTC) to its’ systems. PTC is a complex system of computers, GPS devices, radios and other communications equipment intended to take over when a train is approaching another train.
In an emergency, the system also could override an engineer who may be distracted or otherwise miss or ignore a warning signal to slow down, such as when a train crosses a switch or a track crossover, or when it exceeds the speed limit.
Basically this is a computer system that aims to eliminate human error. Is this too little too late? Critics say that rail lines should have installed such systems long ago. The National Transportation Safety Board called for positive train control as far back as 1990.
The NTSB cited the lack of such a system in the deadly crash on Metra’s Rock Island line in 2005, the second such derailment on the same line. In December 2006, the safety agency issued an urgent recommendation to Metra to install an automatic system to warn engineers.
Regardless, this is a positive step towards making Metra trains safer.
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