The New Haven commuter rail line will be first on the Metro-North system to implement a safety feature called positive train control, but it won’t be fully operational until 2018. That was the update given by Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker, speaking in the wake of the fatal crash in Hoboken, New Jersey.
A New Jersey Transit train crashed into a platform at the station Thursday, killing one person and injuring more than 100. Redeker told reporters that positive train control can help regulate the speed of trains independently of the driver.
"We are well along the way of implementation on the New Haven line, but it is not operational today," he said. "Elements of it are, but not the full safety pieces. So we actually have some speed controls in place, but not the full functionality. That will happen by 2018."
Redeker also said his department will be closely watching the outcome of the investigation into the Hoboken crash. "We don't surmise what's happening or hypothesize. We wait for that investigation and the facts of that case will be shared," he said. "And if we need to do something by learning from that, we'll certainly implement those changes."
Meanwhile, Senator Richard Blumenthal emphasized that the lack of safety measures is even more concerning in the wake of the Hoboken accident.
"In Connecticut we are as vulnerable to this kind of crash due to excessive speed or driver error, because Metro-North lacks positive train control and it is absent from parts of our tracks," he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said positive train control would have prevented a deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia last May. A federal law in 2008 mandated the installation of the safety system by the end of 2015. That deadline was extended to December 2018 after several major railroads complained they would not be able to meet the original deadline.
Meanwhile, Friday’s Bond Commission meeting in Hartford approved $200 million in borrowing to fund the purchase of 60 new rail cars for the New Haven line.