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Train systems likely to meet safety deadlines, experts say

According to the American Public Transportation Association, it is likely that the Dec. 31 deadline for installing elements of Positive Train Control safety features will be met. PTC is designed to improve commuter railway safety in New York and throughout the country.

In 2008, Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act. This mandated the use of PTC and set a date of Dec. 31, 2020, for full implementation. The 2018 deadline is for installation of certain types of technology and employee training. The Federal Railroad Administration contacted several commuter rail systems earlier in 2018 because it believed they might not make the deadline. The U.S. Government Accountability Office had similar concerns, according to a report from February. However, the APTA president and CEO claimed all systems should be able to meet the deadline. It is not clear if systems that fail to do so will face punishment.

According to him, by June 30, nearly three-fourths of employees were trained and over one-third of commuter railroads were either operating with, demonstrating or testing PTC. More than three-fourths of office control systems and wayside track equipment has been put in place while 85 percent of onboard equipment is installed.

The total cost of PTC implementation is more than $4 billion. The federal government made $272 million in applicable grants available in 2017 and another $250 million available in 2018.

While the purpose of PTC is to increase safety features, there are still likely to be accidents and injuries on railways. Employees may be particularly vulnerable because of the amount of time they spend on the railways. Employees who are injured might need to file a FELA claim. This is the type of protection that is available for railway workers instead of the workers' compensation that is available in other industries. Injured railway workers may want to talk to an attorney about their rights and how to proceed.

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