Amtrak crash raises NJ Transit safety concerns

As many questions surround the Amtrak crash that killed eight people in Philadelphia, some New Jersey commuters are wondering whether their transit system is safe.

"If you look at the casualty stats, rail is of all the mass-transit systems the safest to travel," says Albert Papp, of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. He believes NJ Transit's rails are safe.

Still, he admits that there is always room for improvement. Luggage restraints are one easy fix, he says, because many of the injuries in Tuesday's Philadelphia crash were attributed to flying or falling bags.

"On most trains, the luggage compartment above the seats is open," says Papp. "It doesn't have a closing door as that of an airliner."

He also points to Positive Train Control, or PTC, a system that is frequently in the news after train crashes. The system can slow down trains that are going too fast or trains that are in danger of getting into a collision.

NJ Transit tells News 12 New Jersey that it has plans to phase in PTC systemwide next year.

"Safety has to be job one," says Papp. "Trouble is there isn't enough money to do it."

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires railroad operators nationwide to have PTC in place by the end of 2015, but most systems in the country -- including NJ Transit -- say they don't have the money to install PTC systems.

A bill currently in the U.S. Senate seeks to delay the implementation deadline to 2020.

NJ Transit says it already has other automatic train controls in place, and most riders told News 12 that they feel safe on trains.

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