Rep. Schiff Calls for Immediate Implementation of Positive Train Control Across the Country

Washington, DC – Today, in the wake of the tragic Amtrak crash in Philadelphia that so far has cost the lives of eight people, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) called for urgent implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), a predictive collision-avoidance technology which can override an operator to prevent train collisions and save lives. The technology consists of GPS signals and wayside devices that can detect unapproved train movement or trains going too fast with the ability to stop the train remotely.

“Even after the Chatsworth crash that killed twenty-five, some in the railroad industry and in Congress have been trying to delay implementation of Positive Train Control across the country, but the tragic Amtrak accident this week reminds us again of the terrible price we pay for delay,” said Rep. Schiff. “While the Amtrak crash is under investigation, a number of experts are saying that PTC could have prevented this accident and many others that have occurred throughout the country. 

“I was disappointed to see the House Appropriations Committee yesterday reject an amendment by my colleagues to provide funding for PTC in the transportation funding bill, because this shouldn’t be a partisan issue – we all need to continue working to improve funding for our critical infrastructure, and make sure that PTC is employed nationwide.”




In 2008, Rep. Schiff authored legislation – the Rail Collision Prevention Act, which was ultimately included in the Rail Safety Improvement Act – to require all major U.S. railroads to install “positive train control” systems designed to help avoid collisions.  These provisions came in response to the 2008 Metrolink-Union Pacific crash in Chatsworth, which killed 25 and injured 135, and a 2005 crash in Glendale where a Metrolink train collided with an automobile that was abandoned on the tracks.  That collision killed 11 people and was the deadliest Metrolink crash in its history, until the tragic collision in Chatsworth. 


Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which Schiff helped pass, railroads are required to install the life-saving technology by the end of 2015. However, the Senate Commerce Committee recently approved a bill that would give railroads a five- to-seven year extension. Rail safety experts say a positive train control system could have prevented the Chatsworth and Union Pacific crashes.


Schiff’s 2008 legislation which was signed into law required that:


  • Require both commuter and passenger railroads and freight train that share a track to implement positive train control systems;
  • Requires installation of these systems on all other passenger rail lines and rail lines used to transport hazardous materials; and
  • Authorize the Secretary of Transportation to assess fines up to $100,000 on rail carriers that fail to comply.


The bill also mandated a safety analysis on using cell phones and other devices in the cab of the train and reforms the hours of service rule to ensure that train conductors and other personnel receive adequate rest on the job. Here is how positive train control systems work:


  • Digital communications are combined with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to monitor train locations and speeds.
  • These systems can detect excessive speed, improperly aligned switches, whether trains are on the wrong track, unauthorized train movements, and whether trains have missed signals to slow or stop.
  • If engineers do not comply with signals, the system automatically brings the trains to a stop.