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Railroads step up PTC implementation

Connecticut residents who regularly take the train know how serious a railway accident can become. In February 2018, an Amtrak passenger train crashed into a parked CSX train just outside of Columbia, South Carolina, killing two train workers and injuring a total of 116 people.

Railroad experts, closely following the investigation of the crash as it was being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board, found that the CSX train crew had left a switch in the reverse position: The switch pushed the passenger train onto the rail where the parked locomotive was. The backup signal protection that could have prevented this human error was out of operation that day.

Now, railroad companies are ramping up efforts to implement what is called Positive Train Control, which allows a computer to stop a train in an emergency. The federal government issued a PTC mandate some time ago, first requiring that implementation be complete by 2015 and then extending that period to 2020.

PTC currently covers about 65,000 out of the 140,000 miles of route track in the U.S. that include passenger lines and trains carrying hazardous materials. Eighty percent of the required track has PTC. However, it should be noted that PTC cannot prevent all incidents, such as crossing accidents or those involving track or equipment failure.

Railroad workers are often hurt through no fault of their own. In such cases, they may be able to file a FELA claim for compensation. If successful, they might be covered for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. FELA claims are unlike workers' compensation benefits in that plaintiffs must prove that the railroad company's negligence was somehow the cause of their injuries. This is why it may be a good idea to retain legal counsel.

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