New York Senator Chuck Schumer has been a harsh critic of the Long Island Railroad’s efforts to install federally mandated crash-prevention technology. After learning that transportation officials had given the suburban commuter railroad another two years to comply with the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act, Schumer demanded that work continue around the clock. The law, which was passed in the wake of a California train accident that claimed 25 lives, required railroads to install positive train control systems by the end of 2015. That date has since been pushed back to 2020, and railroads are now only required to meet certain minimum standards to be in compliance with the federal law.
The minimum standard established by the Federal Railroad Administration for the LIRR was fully implementing PTC technology on part of one branch by the beginning of 2019. The railroad now says that testing of the system is underway and it hopes to have the technology operational on its Woodside to Port Washington line by the end of December.
PTC technology uses transponders placed on trains and along railroad tracks to monitor rail traffic and stop trains automatically to prevent accidents. However, problems with the software that runs the system and a shortage of experts in the field have stymied efforts to implement the potentially life-saving technology. The LIRR’s technical staff say that PTC software has failed in several tests. The railroad also claims that the software makers have been slow to respond to calls for help.
Those hurt in on-the-job accidents generally file workers’ compensation claims, but railroad workers pursue compensation under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act. The main difference between the two procedures is that railroad workers must establish negligence or their claims will be rejected. Attorneys with experience in this area could help injured railroad workers to prepare their FELA claims by scrutinizing accident reports for signs of negligence and evaluating the effectiveness of the safety protocols in place.