Tuesday, December 03, 2013

PTC Redux - Or When The Knee Jerks

Don't you just love it when the establishment news media get their hands on a railroad story they know nothing about?  Grinding my fingernails down a chalkboard (a magical graphic device used in old-school classrooms, for  those of you in perpetual puberty) would be both more pleasant and more productive.

Four fatalities on a commuter train in New York, and many injuries, are certainly tragedies that apparently could have been avoided by the magic of Positive Train Control.  At least that's what NBC News decided when presenting this story early Monday morning on Today.  And, guess what, there is this technology called PTC that's established fact.  I can't quote the story directly right now, because I can't find a transcript on the Net, but it went something like, "There is technology that could have prevented the accident."  Really?!!!

So the railroads that have spent upwards of 9 figures, if not 10, trying to implement this "existing technology" are just throwing away their money trying to design and build systems that they could have gone to NBC and purchased "out of the box" to comply with Congress' arbitrary deadline?  Apparently, railroads are so stodgy and unfeeling toward the victims of such tragedies that they would lie a thousandfold just to keep from having to implement something so simple and so extant that it should have been done yesterday.  If only those railroads would stop concentrating on being the most fuel efficient from of transportation on the face of the planet, pound for pound and passenger for passenger, and start concentrating on what's really important!

Fact is this:  If Congress had de-regulated the implementation of PTC in a similar way that they de-regulated the railroads thirty years ago--that is, remove all government regulations as far as placement and testing, bandwidth, radio frequencies, environment, etc.-- then PTC "would" be working today!

Fact is this:  PTC only existed as a concept on the engineering drawing boards when Congress got involved, functional only in test situations on very short segments of track.

Fact is this:  There IS technology that dates back to the first half of the 20th century called Automatic Train Stop.  Lots of railroads have it, but its based on switches and relays and brute force mechanical systems that Congress doesn't understand.  Oh, wait!  They don't understand what it is taking to implement PTC, either.  Furthermore, it's not fun for Congress to mandate something that already exists.

My guess:  This latest tragedy can be blamed on technology--but probably not on the lack of it.  Check your text messages while running a train, anyone?

©2013 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com

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