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Brightline plans to install Positive Train Control technology that could have prevented Amtrak crash

Posted at 6:50 PM, Dec 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-19 18:54:17-05

Amtrak confirms that technology could have prevented this derailment in Washington State was installed, but not active when the train left the tracks and crashed down on interstate five.

Positive Train Control slows down a train automatically when going too fast. This train was traveling at 80 miles an hour in a 30 mile-per-hour zone. 

When Brightline launches its high speed service to Fort Lauderdale and Miami in a matter of days, those trains will not have positive train control either. Safety and speed are two reasons why leaders on the Treasure Coast oppose extending Brightline to Cape Canaveral, and then to Orlando. 

Brightline plans to install Positive Train Control before Congress' 2018 deadline, but in Martin County engineers worry that if that deadline gets extended that trains that one day travel through the Treasure Coast will not have the important technology. 

The scene in Washington State was like out of a movie. Train cars were dangling onto the highway. Railway investigators believe the Amtrak derailment that killed at least 3 and sent over 70 people to the hospital, could have been prevented. 

"Positive Train Control is supposed to prevent train to train collisions, it's supposed to slow the train down," said Terry Rauth, Director of Engineering in Martin County. 
 
She's concerned that Brightline has not installed positive train control on its high speed passenger trains. The technology automatically activates the trains' brakes to enforce speed restrictions, especially in areas where the train to go from over 80 miles-per-hour to 35 miles-per-hour. 
 
Brightline is set to launch service from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale in the next two weeks. Construction for the tracks from West Palm Beach to Orlando, which will be running through the Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties to set to begin next year.  

"Once the train gets into Martin County it's going to be going 110 miles-per-hour. So in South Florida it will be going less than 80 so positive train control is not required south of West Palm Beach, but it is required once they hit 80 miles-per-hour," saids Rauth. 

Brightline says when the trains start traveling from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, automatic train control will be operational. The technology notifies the engineer if the locomotive is going too fast. Positive train control is expected to be implemented by Congress' 2018 deadline. So by law, it will have to be running when trains carrying passengers start zipping through the Treasure Coast.  
 
"They’ve indicated that they will be putting it in but we really on the plans, there’s no indication," said Rauth.

Statement from Brightline Company:
"We are currently coordinating the implementation of PTC with the Federal Railroad Administration in anticipation that it will be operational in advance of the 2018 deadline. When Brightline launches service to Orlando, PTC will be operational for the entire corridor."