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LIRR says positive train control installed on 94% of tracks as deadline nears

Transponders for use with the Long Island Rail

Transponders for use with the Long Island Rail Road's positive train control system are installed on the Montauk Line in this undated photo. Credit: MTA

The Long Island Rail Road has completed installation of positive train control safety technology on 94% of its tracks, with four months left to go before a federal deadline to finish the project, LIRR officials said.

With the Dec. 31 deadline — and the risk of federal fines — looming, the railroad on Wednesday released its latest progress report, stating the LIRR “will be in full PTC operations by the end of 2020.”

Positive train control, also known as PTC, was ordered by Congress in 2008 — after a California train crash — to prevent rail collisions by automatically slowing down or halting trains that violate stop signals. Under federal law, the LIRR, which twice has been granted extensions to the original 2015 federal deadline, must have PTC in place by the end of 2020.

The Federal Railroad Administration, in a report issued last week detailing railroads’ PTC progress through the second quarter of 2020, said that, as of June 30, the technology was operational through about 72% of the LIRR’s tracks.

That figure, according to the LIRR, since has reached 94%, with the remaining 6% being isolated to some switching complexes in Queens, including near Jamaica Station and at the Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside.

The LIRR also has completed installation of PTC equipment and software on its trains, officials said. LIRR president Phillip Eng called it “a major milestone that our workforce should be proud of.”

“This reaffirms our commitment to improving safety for our riders and employees,” Eng said in a statement. “I commend the entire team for their dedication and hard work and know they will continue with a full-court press to meet the federal deadline so every train is operating in PTC by the end of the year.”

The LIRR’s project has been plagued by blunders and delays in recent years, including mistakes in the installation of equipment by its PTC contractor, a joint venture of Siemens AG and Bombardier Transportation.

The LIRR also has yet to resolve a compatibility issue with Amtrak, with whom it shares its tracks in Queens, that is in the way of both railroads complying with the federal mandate.

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