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Positive Train Control

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and for many, to travel.  In September 2008, a terrible collision between a freight train and a commuter train in California took twenty-five lives.  Just last summer in Spain, a derailment caused by speeding, resulted in 80 deaths and scores of injuries.  The recent commuter train crash in the Bronx “fortunately” occurred on a weekend, when there were fewer travelers, so “only” four individuals were killed.

These and other accidents are putting the spotlight on Positive Train Control (PTC), which, if it had been in place, might have prevented these incidents.

PTC is a computer-based system used to help minimize human error, such as an engineer nodding off or otherwise distracted (hopefully not by texting, which has been a factor in a number of high-profile train crashes.)

How does PTC work? This definition – which I saw online on the NBC News site – is as good as any. With PTC: 

The computer can warn a train’s crew if the train is going too fast. It can stop trains from colliding with each other, from switching onto the wrong track or from going the wrong way. It can also prevent high-speed derailment by automatically applying the brakes when a train is going too fast.

By the end of 2015, such systems are scheduled to be in place throughout the US passenger and freight rail network. (There has been some pushback to extend this deadline – PTC systems are very complex to implement – but the recent NYC crash will likely push back on that pushback.)

Critical Link is working with a company that provides PTC systems, and is embedding our System-on-Modules in its product. (More on this at a later date!) 

When PTC becomes more widespread, it’s safe to say that rail travel will become safer – something we all want to happen as soon as possible.