CAYCE, SC (WIS) - A system that was intended to be implemented by the end of 2015 could have prevented the deadly train crash that occurred on Sunday that claimed the lives of two Amtrak employees and sent over 100 passengers to the hospital when Amtrak Train 91 collided with a stationary CSX freight train.
According to the Association of American Railroads, Positive Train Control was designed to compensate for the factors that led up to the Cayce, SC crash, i.e. Train-to-train collisions, Unauthorized incursions onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place, and movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.
"PTC has been mandated to be installed over a lot of the nation's railroad," explained NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt. "The deadline for that is the end of this year, December the 31st of this year. And so, determining the exact status of the installation of PTC will be something that will be very important for us to find out. To be clear, an operational PTC system is designed to prevent this type of accident."
Investigators have already established that the track switch that led to the collision between the two trains was the reason the trains ended up on the same track, but the cause of that error is still being determined. PTC would have stopped the train once the error was detected.
"Our goal is to find out not only what happened but why it happened so that we can prevent it from happening again," said Sumwalt.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was passed into law in the wake of fatal train crashes between 2002 and 2008, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. It mandated that train companies have a plan submitted to the Secretary of Transportation within 18 months of the passing of the bill to have a PTC system installed by Dec. 31, 2015. That deadline was extended in late 2015 to allow extended testing time.