Concerns over train safety rise amidst recent rail accidents

With millions of people using train systems on a daily basis, there have been increasing concerns about train safety especially after a recent series of rail accidents in the tristate area. In 2013, a Metro-North passenger train derailed in the Bronx and killed 4 people. In 2015, an Amtrak crash in Philly killed 8 while in September, an NJ transit crash in Hoboken killed 1. For many commuters, traveling within the northeast, their trust in rail safety has been at an all-time low.

Fox 5 sat down for a skype interview with Robert Halstead.  He’s a train accident investigator based in Syracuse. He said a federal law passed requires rail companies to adopt positive train control by 2018. Here’s how the technology would work on a train:

Robert Halstead, railroad accident investigator said "when it gets to a braking distance of a point that's going to require a reduction in speed, it displays a message on the computer screen in front of the engineer telling the engineer here's the speed restriction, you need to slow down. It gives the engineer a certain time period to comply with that requirement, and if the engineer does not it applies the brakes itself."

In early October, an LIRR passenger train with about 600 people sideswiped another train, and a few days earlier, a freight train derailed in the Bronx. Halstead said it’s likely PTC would have prevented these incidents, but he also said there was also a lot of human error and lack of employee training and supervision. Regarding the deadly Hoboken crash - Senator Charles Schumer said the NJ transit’s safety record is unacceptable.

With the Hoboken crash, the front car didn’t have an inward facing camera to show what the engineer was doing before the impact. Halstead said advanced technology, especially PTC, costs more than most rail companies can handle. That’s why the installation had been so slow.

Halstead said states like California, Michigan and even certain New York train lines already have PTC systems in place, so hopefully in time all train lines will be up to date with safety regulations.