Southern California

Caltrain on Track to Install Positive Train Controls

A signal system that automatically keeps trains from exceeding track speed limits would have prevented the deadly derailment in Philadelphia, officials said.

The system, known as positive train controls, was mandated by Congress after the deadly 2008 Metrolink crash in Southern California. Positive train controls should be on all trains by the end of the year.

Caltrain said the system will be up and running in all of its trains by the December deadline.

In San Carlos, Caltrain workers are connecting fiber optic lines along the entire length of the transit service's right of way. The fiber optic lines will link with radio transmitters, officials said.

"And the combination will define precisely where trains are located at all times," said Chuck Harvey, Caltrain chief operating officer.

Harvey said if a train is speeding as the train in Philadelphia was, a signal from the positive train control, or PTC, would automatically be sent to the train's operator.

"The PTC system will warn the engineer you're speeding and if the engineer doesn't take immediate action the system will automatically slow the train down" Harvey said.

Amtrak declined an interview request for this story. A spokeswoman said Amtrak is in talks with Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific, which own the rail lines.

Union Pacific reports trains in the Los Angeles Basin will have PTC by the end of the year.

But as for the rest of the state? It doesn't look likely.

Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer is urging PTC be installed to by the end of the year.

"The Amtrak disaster shows why we must install Positive Train Control technology as soon as possible," Boxer said in a statement.

Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have been pushing for the technology since the Metro Link crash. But bills are in Congress now that would extend the December deadline by as much as five years.

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