WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board called on railroads and a federal agency Wednesday to set a timetable for installing high-technology train control systems that would make collisions close to impossible.
James Arena, NTSB director of surface transportation safety, said such a system could have prevented fatal accidents this year in Silver Spring, Md., and Secaucus, N.J. Their installation would be an appropriate way to honor the victims, he said.
Jolene Molitoris, head of the Federal Railroad Administration, said her agency has called for such a system to be in place by the year 2000 on corridors with high volumes of passenger and freight traffic.
A Rockwell Railroad Electronics official told two House subcommittees it could make a system available in 15 months.
Several congressmen expressed their impatience with the FRA’s timetable.
“This fancy system is available – but it’s years away [in the FRA plan]. That bothers me,” said Rep. Jay Kim, R-Calif.
“I want you to be a leader on this,” Rep. James Oberstar, D- Minn., told Molitoris. “Give [the railroads] a deadline.”
Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, chairwoman of the House Science subcommittee on technology, said she was disturbed to hear that with advances in technology, “the Silver Spring accident might not have occurred and lives might have been spared.”
The Silver Spring rail corridor should be a priority for early installment of new equipment, said Steven Ditmeyer, director of the FRA’s Office of Research and Development.
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