BNSF Railway is one of the first railroads to fully implement new safety technology that will be required by federal regulators by the end of the year, a company spokeswoman said.
The new technology, known as positive train control, is designed to automatically slow or stop a train to prevent accidents such as a collision with another train or a derailment caused by excessive speed.
BNSF has spent more than a decade developing and deploying PTC technology at a cost of more than $2.2 billion, according to spokeswoman Amy McBeth. She told KSTP-TV the company is one of the first to fully implement the technology across all locomotives and mandated routes. All railroad companies must have it in place by the end of 2018 to meet a federal mandate.
“I think people would be surprised to realize how high tech the railroad is,” McBeth said. “If something were to happen and the crew doesn’t respond, PTC would take over and stop that train in certain circumstances to prevent an incident from happening.”
KSTP-TV reports the system gives the operator a warning using a complex network of GPS technology, track sensors and radio towers to constantly monitor the train’s speed, the grade it is traveling and the track ahead. If the engineer doesn’t take action, the computer can take control of the train to ensure it slows down to an acceptable speed to round a bend or even stop to avoid a crash.
And while BNSF may be on track, a recent report from the federal Government Accountability Office study found that as many as two-thirds of the nation’s 29 commuter railroads weren’t expected to meet the deadline, and that some of them were unlikely to make enough progress to merit a two-year extension.
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