Let’s stay on track with railroad safety (copy)

South Bend Tribune

Both the House and Senate passed legislation giving railroads an additional three years to install a safety measure that’s designed to prevent train crashes.

That’s as it should be: A failure to extend the deadline could have had serious economic consequences in Indiana and throughout the country.

Under H.R. 3819, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, railroads have until Dec. 31, 2018, to install Positive Train Control, and could seek a waiver for up to another two years if needed.

In a comment earlier, while calling for an extension, we noted the importance of improving rail safety. And mandating those improvements should involve reasonable deadlines that take into account the costs involved. A Government Accountability Office report in September found that the industry would not be able to meet the deadline because of several problems, including a limited number of suppliers of the new technology.

The extension that was passed by Congress shouldn’t be viewed as an excuse to put off implementation of technology that federal regulators call “the single-most important rail safety development in more than a century.” As a story in the Washington Post points out, trains filled with volatile natural gas or oil have derailed so far a total of seven times this year.

On May 12, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight passengers and injuring 200 more. Everyone — including the railroad and federal investigators — agree that this tragedy could have been prevented by PTC.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that since 1969, it has investigated 145 rail accidents, with 288 people killed and 6,574 injured, that PTC could have prevented.

The extension gives the rail industry time to make the changes that will save lives. We sincerely hope that happens before a 146th accident.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield reporter.com.