JITI 2013 Intersections Series
Improving Railroad Safety: The Status of Positive Train Control and Its Implications
October 10, 2013
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Choate Room
1779 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C.
Positive train control (PTC) holds the promise to increase safety for passenger and freight rail service in the United States. PTC addresses train-to-train collisions, derailments due to unsafe speeds, and the unauthorized movement of trains. While many international rail systems, including Japan and throughout Europe, have already deployed some form of train control to further ensure safety for this vital transportation mode, the United States has lagged in spite of the National Transportation Safety Board advocating the importance of PTC since the 1990’s.
Congress mandated that PTC be implemented on passenger and freight railroads by the end of 2015 through enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. This mandate, largely credited as a response to major accidents including the 2008 Chatsworth train collision, has been met with some resistance from industry. In August, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation introduced legislation to delay implementation of PTC, though similar legislation failed to be included in Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). An examination of PTC policy is apropos of the coming reauthorization of transportation programs likely to be considered next year.
Mr. Cothen, a 41 year veteran of federal service who last served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Safety Standards and Program Development at the Federal Rail Administration, provided the audience with a survey of safety in the railway industry, his perspective on PTC as policy, the state of implementation by industry, and challenges faced by freight and passenger railroad operators. His expertise will illuminate these issues as they relate to interoperability, potential barriers to competition, and funding for PTC.
The JITI Intersections Series provides a platform for transportation experts across modes and industries to interact with fellow practitioners and policymakers. As a supplement to JITI’s signature seminars, this series will facilitate further opportunities for open dialogue and exchange of ideas to improve transportation outcomes.
Transportation Consultant; Former Deputy Associate Administrator for Safety Standards and Program Development, Federal Rail Administration