A new piece of technology could have prevented the Amtrak train in Philadelphia from speeding, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. It’s called “positive train control,” or PTC, and it’s in the process of being installed and tested throughout the country.
According to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the PTC technology senses when a train is speeding and responds automatically, if the engineer does not apply the brakes manually.
PTC is being installed along the Northeast Corridor — but Maine and New Hampshire are excluded from receiving the technology.
According to NNEPRA Executive Director Patricia Quinn, Amtrak does not have a legal obligation to install the technology where ridership is not as high.
Quinn said PTC is mandated where there are 12 passenger trains traveling each day, but the Downeaster train between Maine and Boston does about 10 trips a day.
“If it could prevent an accident like that from happening, I don’t know why we wouldn’t have something like that,” said Jessica Simpson, who takes the Downeaster train occasionally.
One issue, said Quinn, is the cost. She estimated it would cost tens of millions of dollars for Amtrak to add PTC technology in New Hampshire and Maine. In light of recent cuts to Amtrak’s federal funding, it’s an expensive investment.
“If there were more federal funds and if it was required, I think that would make it a much easier decision,” said Quinn. “In the absence of that, it’s a bigger lift for smaller states and smaller routes, so you have to weigh that out.”