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LIRR says 'select trains' already running positive train control technology 

Positive train control uses antennas and transponders built

Positive train control uses antennas and transponders built into trains and along tracks to automatically slow down or stop a train before it can be involved in an accident. Credit: MTA

Federally mandated crash prevention technology is already running on some Long Island Rail Road branches, the agency said Wednesday.

One week after an independent engineer raised new concerns about the LIRR’s ability to complete its positive train control project by the December 2020 deadline, the LIRR said “select trains” operating on its Far Rockaway, Long Beach, Oyster Bay and West Hempstead branches have begun using the PTC system.

The technology was already in place on the Port Washington Branch, Hempstead Branch and a portion of the Montauk Branch — from Babylon to Patchogue.

“The successful and on-time launch of Positive Train Control on these branches continues our forward progress on this critical initiative,” LIRR president Phillip Eng said in a statement. “Meeting this milestone reinforces my confidence that we will complete systemwide rollout of Positive Train Control on time by the end of the 2020.”

PTC uses antennas and transponders built into trains and along tracks to automatically slow down or stop a train before it can be involved in an accident. National Transportation Safety Board investigators have said PTC could have prevented several fatal train accidents in recent years, including the December 2013 derailment of a Metro-North train in the Bronx that killed four people.

A federal law passed in 2008 requires American railroads to install the technology. The LIRR and sister railroad Metro-North twice have missed deadlines, in 2015 and 2018, and been granted extensions.

Despite LIRR officials’ confidence, an independent engineer hired by the MTA last week opined that the railroad has only a “fair chance” of meeting the December 2020 deadline.

The MTA has blamed its PTC contractor, a joint venture of Siemens AG and Bombardier Transportation, for repeated delays and cost overruns in the $1 billion project, including those caused by mistakes in the installation of some components and inadequate resources.

If the railroad misses the 2020 deadline, it could face federal fines of up to $29,000 a day for every train not in compliance. Siemens and Bombardier have offered to cover any costs incurred by the railroad if it misses the deadline, in exchange for a guarantee from the MTA that it will not be excluded from consideration for future contracts.

The MTA Board is expected to vote on that agreement next month.

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