Amtrak’s New Speed Control System Was Installed — But Never Turned On

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Many raised questions on Wednesday, asking why the new speed reduction system wasn’t installed to help stop the speeding Amtrak train derailment that killed 8 on Tuesday. But now reports reveal that the new system actually had been installed, but was never turned on.

On Thursday, U.S. News uncovered information that the positive train control system (PTC) had already been installed on the section of track where the accident occurred.

“The PTC was installed in the section of track where the Philadelphia accident occurred, but for whatever reason had not been turned on, the PTC in that section,” Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., told U.S. News.

The account was confirmed to U.S. News by Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris.

“According to Amtrak,” the magazine wrote, “PTC was installed in the section of track where the Philly accident occurred. There have been delays in ‘turning it on’ associated with FCC dealings and getting the bandwidth to upgrade the radios from 900 MHz to something higher (for more reliability).”

It seems that the onus was still on the FCC to get the system turned on.

Many had speculated that the PTC system could have prevented the derailment and kept eight people from dying on Tuesday evening.

“Based on what we know right now,” National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said on Wednesday, “we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred.”

In fact, the problem coordinating with the FCC is one that has been known about for years. In the past the NTSB acknowledged the difficulty of  getting FCC clearances for the PTC systems to use the FCC’s wireless communication radio spectrum. It was admitted that there are “many challenges hindering the full implementation of PTC.”

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