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Railroad communications and train control : report to Congress
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Railroad communications and train control : report to Congress
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  • Abstract:
    Recent tragedies in the railroad industry have again focused attention on the prospects for

    improving railroad safety through enhanced radio communication and implementation of

    advanced train control systems (ATCS). ATCS has the potential to prevent future accidents

    such as the collision between multiple-unit commuter trains at Gary, Indiana, on January 18,

    1993, in which seven passengers died, and the collision between trains of the Union Pacific

    and Burlington Northern railroads at Longview (Kelso), Washington, on November 11,

    1993, in which five employees lost their lives.

    The Clinton Administration is strongly committed to improving safety on all modes of

    transportation, and this objective is one of the seven core goals of the Department of

    Transportation's Strategic Plan announced by Secretary Federico Peiia in January 1994. In

    this report, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) expands on a Congressional mandate

    to evaluate ATCS and enhanced radio communications and finds that positive train control

    (PTC)--which, as a component of ATCS, can enforce speed and movement restrictions-is

    nearing a point at which it can begin to be used on railroads to eliminate injuries and deaths

    caused by train-to-train collisions. FRA recommends a series of steps to encourage the

    implementation of PTC systems on high-risk rail corridors by the year 2000.

    Both through the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and through individual

    companies' efforts, the railroad industry has made great strides towards the development of

    ATCS over the last twelve years. The AAR has developed technological standards to ensure

    that equipment from different suppliers will be compatible, and certain railroads have

    implemented basic ATCS technologies for purposes such as replacement of landline

    communications. However, ATCS systems are not yet available in off-the-shelf form, nor is

    much of the research and development necessary to full implementation completed.

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