In 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board included Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation on its Most Wanted List of safety initiatives. The NTSB had been calling for the devices for 45 years at that point. Congress had taken action on that suggestion already in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 by requiring all railroads to install the systems by December 31, 2015. With a handful of months remaining before the deadline, it appears unlikely that PTC devices will be in place on time for many railroads, including Metra.
Metra Chairman Martin Oberman recently reported that the railroad expects to have PTC in place by 2019. The contract to oversee the installation of PTC was only awarded last month. The software needed to control the system has not yet been designed. He gave no indication as to why the requirements of the 2008 Act were not acted upon sooner.
In the wake of the Amtrak train derailment that claimed the lives of eight people last week, interest in PTC systems has grown. PTC systems would prevent accidents caused by engineers missing stop signals or going too fast for a particular section of track. Amtrak is in the process of installing PTC systems in several areas, but the derailment occurred on a section of track where the device was not in place. The CEO of Amtrak has indicated that all the trains in the Northeast Corridor will have PTC by the end of the year.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Metra years away from implementing high-tech safety system,” by Richard Wronski, 14 May 2015