Three of the United State’s largest railroads will not be able to complete full implementation of their collision avoidance systems Congress began to require ten years ago until 2020. The total global collision avoidance system, which is used for multiple industries, including automotive, aerospace, rail, marine and mining is expected to grow from USD 31.19 Billion in 2014 to USD 50.38 Billion by 2020. When implemented by railroads, this anti-collision system automatically slows or stop trains to prevent crashes, to prevent trains from taking curves too fast, and to slow or stop trains when railroad workers are present.
Anti-collision system implementation became a requirement after Metrolink collided with a Union Pacific in California killed 25 people, and an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia in 2015, killing eight passengers. The train had sped into a 50 mph curve at more than 100 mph. In New York, in 2013, a Metro-North Commuter train also derailed on a 30 mph curve at 82 mph. Four passengers were killed. These tragedies took a long-standing idea and brought it to the forefront, making it a top priority for lawmakers and Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act. Unfortunately, making it a priority hasn’t guaranteed a quick and easy roll out.
The original deadline for all rails to implement the new technology was already extended from December 2015 to December 2018 by lawmakers. This was after they approved a $199 million budget for the project earlier in May. The funds were meant to help the rails get needed equipment installed, and to train their employees on how to utilize it. To date, freight carriers have spent approximately $8 million of their own funds on implementation and it is projected that passenger railroads will wind up spending an estimated $3.5 billion on their systems over time.
Several months before the original deadline two years ago, the railroads threatened to shut down entirely if an extension was not granted. Now it looks like history may repeat itself. A massive shutdown would be massive problems and delays to commuters and commerce.
Sarah Feinbery, who was the Federal Railroad Administration Chief during Obama’s term in office said, “It’s moving incredibly slowly. That money should be going out the door.” Railroad officials have indicated instead there have been legal and technological setbacks that have caused issues with remaining on track for the roll out. Freight carriers have also cited cost as a factor.
Most of the railroads will have their systems in place by the end of 2018, but six will not be fully rolled out for another three years. These include Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Canadian National, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Chicago’s Metra, and Trinity Railway Express. Metro-North and Amtrak will have the anti-collision technology ready by the end of next year, according to progress reports. All railroads should have the equipment installed by 2018, but will not fully be rolling out the new system until two years later. Richard White, acting president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association said back in February that commuter railroads were making “significant progress” at least on the installation front.