Automation may have prevented train crash

Automation may have prevented train crash

A member of the National Transportation Safety Board member said Thursday that an automated train control system that has been the subject of debate in Congress this year might have prevented this week’s deadly Amtrak crash.

Congress originally mandated that the system, known as positive train control, be installed by rail companies by the end of the year after a 2008 commuter rail crash.

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Rail companies argued the system was too expensive to install on time, however, and some lawmakers pushed earlier this year to extend the deadline until 2020.

NTSB Member Robert Sumwalt said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday that the system could have made a difference in Tuesday’s Amtrak crash near Philadelphia.

“We think there is an option that’s even better than having a second person in the locomotive cab and that’s a system called positive train control,” he said when asked about reports the train's engineer was driving too fast at the time of the crash.

“That is a system that’s designed to protect against human error,” Sumwalt continued. “If the error occurs, than the positive train control will kick in and control the speed of the train.”

Investigators have said the train involved in the deadly crash was traveling more than 100 miles per hour when it derailed near Philadelphia.

At least seven passengers were killed in the crash, and more than 100 others were injured.

MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough asked if having a second person in the locomotive would help prevent crashes like Tuesday’s, but Sumwalt said having automated trains would be the most effective solution.

“We’ve certainly seen accidents where there are two people in either an airplane or a locomotive cab,” he said. “We do want redundancy, and another person may be a measure of redundancy, but first of all, positive train control is a proven technology. It’s required to be installed by the end of this year.”

NTSB officials have included positive train control on its “Top 10 Most Wanted” list of safety recommendations for several years.