NTSB: Positive train control technology could have prevented derailment

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Originally published on December 4, 2013

US National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday (December 3) that the Metro-North Railroad train derailment could have been prevented with Positive Train Control technology.

Positive train control, or PTC, is designed to forestall the human errors that cause train accidents The technology uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to continuously monitor trains' locations and speed. The data is used to stop them from colliding, derailing or going the wrong way. The transportation safety board has urged railroads to install PTC since 1970. The US Congress passed a law mandating PTC for commuter and freight railroads in 2008 with a deadline for installation in 2015.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said the brakes of the train were working properly but were applied by the conductor just five seconds before it derailed. The black-box recorders from the train showed it had been travelling at 132 kilometres per hour (82 miles per hour) before entering the 48 kph (30 mph) curve.

Four people were killed and more than 60 were injured, including the train operator in the derailment. However, the NTSB said the investigation would continue for weeks and it was far from reaching a conclusion on the cause.

This animation explains how positive train control technology works.

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