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Why aren't trains safer in the United States?

If you've ever taken a train in Illinois, you know that they feel safe, but they aren't as safe as they could be. In fact, there is a system that could make trains safer, but it's been delayed for over 40 years. Why?

In Albany County, one executive has asked by the government isn't ordering rail-safety improvements. Instead, it appears to be siding with the rail industry, delaying things like Positive Train Control, a railroad-safety initiative that was sought after by the National Transportation Safety Board.

This implementation would monitor and control the movements of trains through digital communication networks. The purpose of this is to help prevent collisions. It could automatically slow down trains or stop them when necessary, helping avoid tragedy from turns taken too quickly or maintenance on the rails causing blockage on the tracks.

You probably haven't heard that this kind of safety procedure has been sought after since 1969. At that time, the safety agency requested the implementation of PTC when a head-on crash between two passenger trains took place in Connecticut.

Still, it's been over 45 years since that, and the PTC operations aren't in place across all of the rail lines. In some places, like portions of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, the PTC is set up, but in other areas, there are no PTC safety implementations. All of this delaying has been stopped now, though, because Congress has finally ordered PTC to be installed on routes that carry passengers or dangerous materials.

That ruling was passed in 2008. The deadline, Dec. 31, 2015, is coming quickly, yet there are few railroads that will be able to meet it. The Senate may push the deadline as far as the year 2022, but that leaves many people asking, "why?" For now, work hazards for railroad employees and passengers will remain on the line.

Source:, "Safety went off the rails" Bill Lambrecht, Jul. 28, 2014

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