Boost for railway safety

A boost for railway safety

Federal grant pours millions of dollars into the region to improve rail efficiency and accident prevention

By Sara Hardin

Missouri railway networks are getting a big safety boost in light of the state receiving $30 million in grants to improve rail efficiency and accident prevention. As announced by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, $18,869,888 of the grants have been awarded to St. Louis and $12,024,877 to Kansas City by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grants, called Positive Train Control (PTC) grants, will be implemented to improve locomotives and prevent collisions on around 4,700 miles of rail track in Missouri and on 60,000 tracks total across the country.

“Missouri is a national transportation hub, and improving the safety and reliability of our rail networks is key to supporting jobs, fueling economic growth and, most importantly, keeping people safe,” said Blunt. “This grant provides much-needed resources that will allow our state’s transportation planners to make the improvements necessary to strengthen the safety of our rail networks.”

While workers on railways are always cautious with their cargo, there is still the chance for the occasional error to occur. Asim Raza, Chief Legal Officer for Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) of St. Louis, explained how the PCT grants will aid in preventing future accidents from happening on the tracks.

“‘Positive train control’ describes technologies designed to automatically stop a train before certain accidents caused by human error occur,” said Raza. “Specifically, PTC as mandated by Congress must be designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed, unauthorized incursions by trains onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place, and the movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position. The PTC systems that will be installed to meet the statutory mandate are overlay systems, meaning they supplement, rather than replace, existing train control systems.”

The increase in safety extends to benefit more than just railway employees and passengers.

“The grant will be used to help finish the installation and implementation of PTC on TRRA infrastructure in Missouri, providing extra measures to help ensure the safety of people in Missouri that cross TRRA tracks, are near those tracks or use those tracks,” explained Raza. “Whether they be on a train crew, working on or near the tracks or traveling as a passenger on Amtrak, PTC will offer added protection against tragic accidents.”

Because of the consistent increase in the cargo hauled on our railways, as well as the constant need for passenger transport, the PTC will be integral in ensuring the present and future safety of everyone on or in close proximity to railway tracks.

“Rail transportation is an integral part of our freight and passenger mobility systems,” said Raza. “Freight rail is expected to see a 50 percent increase in the amount of tonnage carried by 2040. Some of that cargo can contain hazardous materials that could have tragic consequences in the event of a rail mishap as we have seen in other parts of North America recently. Passenger trains have the added vulnerability of lives on board, which even a small incident could put at risk. At TRRA and for every railroad operating on our system, safety is and always has been our top priority. We take that responsibility seriously and have in place a system that ensures a solid safety record. PTC will supplement the system already in place making rail transport in the St. Louis region even safer.”

CUTLINE: Submitted photo The $18,869,888 Positive Train Control grants awarded to the St. Louis region will be implemented to improve locomotives and prevent collisions.