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VRE adding new safety technology to rail lines

The Virginia Railway Express is installing Positive Train Control on its tracks to prevent fatal crashes like the one seen here on Oct. 1, 2016 in Hoboken, New Jersey. (AP/Chris O'Neil)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Work continues in Virginia to install technology onto railroad tracks that federal safety officials say could have prevented deadly accidents involving commuter trains, such as crashes seen in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Virginia Railway Express says it’s on track to have all it’s trains and cab cars outfitted with the technology needed for Positive Train Control.

“We’re very confident in that everything will be done on time and everything will be tested properly,” said Chief Executive Officer of the VRE, Doug Allen.

VRE trains use CSX and Norfolk Southern tracks in the commonwealth, and at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on Thursday, Allen said the commuter train line is working with both companies to get the system up and running.

Congress has given rail operators and the companies, which own the nation’s railroad tracks until Dec. 31, 2018, to have the safety system operational.

Allen said the VRE’s team continues to install the radios and computers, which communicate with the systems being installed along the tracks. Once up and running, the system will be able to automatically stop or slow a train to avoid an accident.

Several accidents have occurred over the past few years, which brought attention to the need for positive train control.

In May of 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia after a approaching a curve at a high rate of speed. Eight people died in the crash.

In September of 2016, a New Jersey Transit train crashed at the Hoboken station, killing one person. Some experts claim the accidents could have been prevented by positive train control.

Allen said, this fall, the VRE hopes to begin testing the system, but hasn’t set an internal deadline for when they hope to have the project done.

The federal deadline, Allen said, will be met.

“Everything is pointing to being able to met the deadline and obviously do it in a safe manner,” Allen said.


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