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What SunRail can learn from Philly disaster

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Seems like SunRail bosses need to take a cue from safety experts investigating Philadelphia’s deadly train crash.

Federal investigators stressed that the tragedy could have been prevented if a Positive Train Control system, or PTC, had been fully operational on the Amtrak route.

Turns out that a PTC system isn’t operational on Central Florida’s SunRail system.

Typically the PTC is a 2-part system with a unit on the train locomotive and another component that may be on the tracks or in a central location that sends signals to the train to warn the crew of dangers ahead on the track.

If the crew doesn’t respond by manually slowing down or stopping, the PTC can take over. Such a system could have prevented the northbound Amtrak train from entering curving tracks at double the speed limit.

We asked SunRail if it has a PTC system.

What follows is a written response from a Florida Department of Transportation spokesman:

“Our vehicles came from the factory, Positive Train Control (PTC) ready.

“Currently we are developing a plan, including what it might cost to implement PTC on our 61.5 mile corridor. We are also working with CSX and Amtrak while we develop our PTC protocols, and costs.”

To be clear, in our opinion, SunRail has a very good safety records and we have never heard of anyone at SunRail operating a train in a dangerous manner. We hope that never happens. But why take a chance?

Federal officials insist that the PTC systems work. No doubt, full installation of those systems aren’t cheap. But what value would anyone place on the 8 lives lost and dozens injured earlier this week in Philadelphia?

Bombardier, the company that built and operates SunRail trains, has experience with PTC systems for commuter railroads.

We urge SunRail bosses to quickly work out the details and get PTC installed.

See you on The Rail.