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Port Washington Branch Debuts New Track Safety System, First in LIRR System

via MTA

Dec. 28, 2018 By Meghan Sackman

The Long Island Rail Road has recently initiated a new safety system on its Port Washington branch, running through Woodside and Flushing before reaching Nassau County, that it says will help eliminate the possibility of train collisions, derailments and more.

The new system, known as Positive Train Control, debuted on the 16-mile branch on Dec. 17, becoming the first line in the LIRR system to have the new feature.

The train safety system uses a network of computers on the trains and tracks that connect to a central hub and provide real-time data on rail conditions.

The data is then used to help prevent incidents, especially stemming from human error, like train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by trains traveling too fast into a curve, or trains traveling into zones where railroad employees are working.

The system, for example, can use the data to automatically slow or stop a train if it detects that it is running too fast on a given stretch of track, or is at risk of passing a stop signal.

“While no single technology can eliminate all risk, the introduction of PTC dramatically reduces the risk of train accidents,” said Patrick Warren, MTA Chief Safety Officer.

The MTA says it is working to implement the $1 billion federally-mandated safety system in their LIRR and Metro North networks before the end of 2020.

While the system is now running on one of the LIRR’s branches, installing the safety feature proved difficult in the process, which even prompted the LIRR to ask the federal government for its current 2020 target to have the system on all its 11 lines.

Reports dating back to April show that the software had been tested 31 times since February in factory and on the Port Washington Line. Of the 31 trials, the system passed 13 times and failed 16 times.

At the time of these failed tests, the MTA disclosed that the difficulties were partly caused by the need for the custom fit of each track, as well as the complicated routes the LIRR takes as opposed to other networks like Amtrak, which has lines that allow trains to travel in straight lines for miles at a time, and which PTC was designed for.

The new 2020 target put forth by the LIRR comes after federal lawmakers pushed the original 2015 deadline the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which mandated that the system be installed on railroads nationwide, to 2018.

Some railroads, additionally, are allowed to meet an end-of-2020 deadline under the federal extension if they meet certain minimum milestones by the end of this year.

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