HOBOKEN - Thursday’s report by the National Transportation Safety Board, showing a NJ Transit train accelerated just before crashing in Hoboken last week, provides the first real clues that the anti-speeding system known as Positive Train Control might have been able to prevent it.
In the final seconds before last week’s crash, the NTSB says the train suddenly accelerated from 8 to 21 miles per hour, more than double the maximum authorized speed. The engineer then did not attempt to hit the brakes until just one second before the train crashed into the terminal wall.
The NTSB says it still does not know if PTC would have prevented the crash, but sources tell Kane In Your Corner the answer largely depends on your point of view.
Filings from NJ Transit with the Federal Railroad Administration show the railroad got an exemption, allowing it not to install PTC on the 10th of a mile of track located inside the Hoboken Terminal itself. So taken literally, PTC could not have prevented the crash.
But it’s not that simple. Railroads that seek a “terminal exemption,” as NJ Transit did, are required by law to use other technology to make sure maximum allowable speeds, 10 mph in the case of Hoboken, are not exceeded. Therefore, the sources tell Kane In Your Corner, PTC likely would have prevented the crash.
NJ Transit does not yet use PTC on any of its trains. The system is currently in place in fewer than half of all commuter railroads nationwide and the federal implementation deadline was recently extended to 2018 because railroads were having trouble securing the necessary funding for implementation.
In an interview that will air on this weekend’s edition of New Jersey Power and Politics, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) expressed unhappiness at the slow pace of PTC implementation. “I'm very frustrated with the state of rail safety in America, that we have modes or technology we could be doing to secure our rail lines, but we haven't been doing them,” Booker said.