Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-97-013
Details
Synopsis: About 5:38 p.m. on 2/16/96, eastbound Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train 286 collided with westbound National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train 29, the Capitol Limited, at milepost 8.55 on CSX main track near Silver Spring, Maryland. The MARC train was operating in the push mode in revenue service between Brunswick , Maryland, and Washington, DC.; it consisted of a locomotive and three commuter cars. The Amtrak train, operating in revenue service between Washington DC., and Chicago, Illinois, consisted of 2 locomotives and 15 cars.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION: Require the implementation of positive train separation control systems for all trains where commuter & intercity passenger railroad operate. (Superseded by R-01-6)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action/Superseded
Mode: Railroad
Location: Silver Spring, MD, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA96MR004
Accident Reports: Collision and Derailment of Maryland Rail Commuter MARC Train 286 and National Railroad Passenger Corporation AMTRAK Train 29
Report #: RAR-97-02
Accident Date: 2/16/1996
Issue Date: 8/28/1997
Date Closed: 6/12/2001
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FRA (Closed - Acceptable Action/Superseded)
Keyword(s): Positive Train Control

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 10/24/2011
Response: Notation 8351: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), "Positive Train Control Systems," that was published in the Federal Register on August 24, 2011. The NPRM proposes amendments to FRA regulations implementing a provision of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 that mandates that certain passenger and freight railroads implement positive train control (PTC) systems by December 31, 2015. Consistent with statute, the final rule became effective March 16, 2010, and established new regulations requiring each Class I railroad over which (1) poisonous-by-inhalation (PIH) or toxic-by-inhalation (TIH) hazardous materials are transported and (2) regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation travels to implement a PTC system by December 31, 2015. The FRA is seeking further comments on its proposal to amend the regulations by eliminating two qualifying tests-the alternate route analysis and the residual risk analysis-that are required to avoid PTC system implementation on track segments that do not transport PIH and TIH hazardous materials traffic and are not used for intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation as of December 31, 2015. The NTSB has continued to follow the recent litigation between the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the FRA regarding PTC implementation. The NTSB also is aware of Executive Order 13563, issued on January 18, 2011, which requires federal agencies to review significant regulations to determine if they are outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome. Further, Vice Chairman Hart testified before the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. House of Representatives, to affirm our strong support of the significant safety benefits that can be accomplished with implementation of PTC systems on our nation's railroads. The NTSB offers the following comments on this section of the NPRM: Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 236.1005, "Requirements for Positive Train Control Systems" When the final rule addressing PTC implementation was issued in 2010, the FRA requested additional comments on specific issues. In our previously submitted comments, the NTSB acknowledged the fact that traffic patterns will likely change to some degree before December 31, 2015. These changes in traffic patterns will necessitate appropriately justified adjustments to the track segments on which PTC must be installed. The NTSB believes that the final rule as written provides enough flexibility to railroads, either at the time of initial filing of their PTC Implementation Plans (which has already passed) or through a request for amendment, to subsequently address changes in traffic patterns. In addition to requiring PTC system implementation on railroad lines over which (1) PIH or TIH hazardous materials are transported and (2) regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation travels, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 also requires PTC systems to be implemented on other tracks as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation may prescribe by regulation or order. The NTSB believes the track segments that will be selected for PTC implementation will be reviewed and considered by the FRA in accordance with its discretionary authority. But the NTSB is concerned that by eliminating the requirements for an alternate route analysis and a residual risk analysis as currently required by the final rule in order for railroads to avoid PTC system implementation, the FRA's ability to identify other high-risk corridors will be hampered. The NTSB strongly encourages the FRA to maintain the railroads' current PTC Implementation Plans so that the traveling public, railroad employees, and communities near rail lines receive the maximum safety benefits. The NTSB will continue to monitor and offer safety recommendations as a result of its accident investigations to improve the effectiveness of PTC standards. The NTSB appreciates the opportunity to comment on this NPRM. Should you require any additional information or clarification, please contact us.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 7/27/2001
Response: On Tuesday, May 1, 2001, at its public Board meeting for the accident report Collision Involving Three Consolidated Rail Corporation Freight Trains Operating in Fog at Bryan, Ohio, January 17, 1999, the Board classified these recommendations as "Closed-Acceptable Action/Superceded." Safety Recommendation R-01-6, was adopted to supercede R-87-16, R-93-12, and R-97-13.

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 3/30/2001
Response: Letter Mail Controlled 04/05/2001 5:39:25 PM MC# 2010290 The FRA cannot, from a practical standpoint currently mandate PTS on all mainline tracks. Achieving benefits that exceed costs will require that freight railroads make business decisions to deploy technologies that serve a variety of functions, including the essential safety functions that the Board and the FRA seek to achieve. The FRA is taking every action within our program authority and available budget authority to advance the deployment of technology that will achieve PTS and related safety functions, which together are referred to as Positive Train Control (PTC). Within the past few months, Amtrak has begun phased revenue implementation of the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System on the Northeast Corridor, providing full PTC functionality by working in concert with the cab signal/automatic train control system. As a result, Amtrak, commuter and freight trains are now benefitting from features that provide positive stops at home signals, civil speed enforcement and protection of roadway workers; and Amtrak trains are authorized to operate up to 150 mph in territory with all trains equipped. Other applications of PTC technology will be implemented over the coming months by Amtrak (funded by the State of Michigan and FRA) and New Jersey Transit. These projects will help build confidence in the readiness of advanced train control technology, while delivering enhanced safety on heavily used passenger corridors. Successfully implementing PTC systems on the larger freight railroad network will require the availability of reliable and affordable technology that is compatible with other emerging Intelligent Railroad Systems. As noted above, using any reasonable set of estimates the safety benefits of PTC are significantly outweighed by the costs. Accordingly, other benefits must be integrated into the business plans of the railroads in order to facilitate implementation. Several major railroads are already procuring highly capable computer-aided dispatching systems that can work in synergy with future PTC systems, and the FRA is encouraging acquisition of "forward-compatible" technology that can work as a part of or in harmony with PTC systems in the future. Railroads are also beginning implementation of allied technologies, including GPS tracking of locomotives to enhance power management. We continue to believe that customer demands for improved service quality and capacity constraints will drive the railroad industry toward advanced train control and traffic management systems in the coming years. Demonstrating successful application of integrated PTC technology is also a necessary condition to achieving our safety objectives. The FRA and the State of Illinois have joined with the Association of American Railroads to fund the North American Joint PTC Program, which will-. Demonstrate PTC on the Union Pacific Railroad line between Mazonia and Springfield in support of enhanced Amtrak service to 110 mph; provide for the safe operation of both equipped and unequipped freight trains; and provide standards for interoperability of train control systems among the major railroads. This project is currently on target for completion in January of 2003 and is designed to provide technology capable of managing trains, under conditions representative of the general freight system, with limited additional infrastructure on the wayside. Testing of PTC technology during the 1990's established that, properly augmented, the Global Positioning System (GPS) can provide a viable, low cost train-borne location determination system for PTC. The principal augmentation needed for this strategy to succeed is deployment of differential beacons that can provide integrity monitoring, as well as increased accuracy. The FRA serves as the program sponsor for the National Differential GPS (NDGPS) Network, which is providing dual (redundant) coverage over the contiguous United States and portions of Alaska, supplementing the U.S. Coast Guard marine service that already supports the safety of navigation on our coasts and on our inland waterways. The FRA continues to request funding for completion of this system, and conversion of former U.S. Air Force Ground Wave Emergency Network installations to NDGPS beacon facilities is ongoing. The FRA is also working to provide a flexible regulatory framework for implementation of advanced train control technology. In September of 2000, the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) recommended issuance of a proposed rule for processor-based signal and train control systems that can facilitate implementation of PTS/PTC systems. That proposed rule is temporarily delayed in the transitional review of regulations being conducted by the new Administration, but we expect it will be published for public comment in the near future. Meanwhile, we are working aggressively to perfect the risk assessment toolkit that will be necessary to implement a performance-based standard.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 2/26/2001
Response: The Safety Board would appreciate learning of any actions the FRA has taken since the last correspondence to address Safety Recommendations R-87-16, R-93-12, R-97-9, and R-97-13. Enclosed are copies of the original recommendation letters for your convenience. The Safety Board would appreciate learning of any actions the FRA has taken since the last correspondence to address Safety Recommendations R-87-16, R-93-12, R-97-9, and R-97-13. Enclosed are copies of the original recommendation letters for your convenience. In addition to R-97-9 and R-97-13, several other recommendations were issued to the FRA in connection with the Silver Spring, Maryland, accident (R-97-10 through -12 and -14 through -21), and there has been no response from the FRA to any of these recommendations since the Safety Board’s letter dated September 30, 1999. Because we are interested in obtaining an expedited update on the four recommendations addressed in this letter, we would appreciate an update on the other recommendations (R-97-10 through -12 and -14 through -21) under separate cover.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date: 9/30/1999
Response: THE SAFETY BOARD IS PLEASED THAT THE FRA CONSIDERS THE PRESENCE OF PASSENGER SERVICE A LEADING CRITERION FOR INSTALLING PTS. THE BOARD HOPES THAT IF THE FRA ASKS THE RAILROAD SAFETY ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE SO THAT THE PACE OF DEVELOPMENT WILL ACCELERATE. TO DATE, THE INDUSTRY'S DEVELOPMENT OF TRAIN CONTROL SYSTEMS HAS BEEN DISCOURAGING. ONE ITEM THAT REMAINS TO BE ADDRESSED IS WHEN PTS INSTALLATION WILL BECOME A MANDATORY PART OF PASSENGER OPERATIONS. PENDING A REQUIREMENT THAT PTS BE IMPLEMENTED WHERE COMMUTER AND INTERCITY PASSENGER RAILROADS OPERATE, THE BOARD HAS CLASSIFIED R-97-13 "OPEN--ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE."

From: FRA
To: NTSB
Date: 2/25/1998
Response: FRA STATED THAT THE PRESENCE OF PASSENGER SERVICE, PARTICULARLY RELATIVELY DENSE PASSENGER SERVICE, HAS BEEN A LEADING CRITERION IN THE INSTALLATION OF AUTOMATIC CAB SIGNALS (ACS), AUTOMATIC TRAIN STOP (ATS) OR AUTOMATIC TRAIN CONTROL (ATC) THROUGHOUT THE MODEM HISTORY OF AMERICAN RAILROADING. CURRENT REGULATIONS CREATE INCENTIVES FOR INSTALLATION OF THESE SYSTEMS BY AUTHORIZING HIGHER TRAIN SPEEDS. HOWEVER, SIGNAL-BASED TECHNOLOGY IS EXPENSIVE, AND PASSENGER OPERATORS CANNOT ACHIEVE SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN SAFETY ON THE LINES THAT THEY UTILIZE ABSENT PARALLEL INVESTMENTS BY FREIGHT OPERATORS (WHICH ARE OFTEN THE OWNERS AND/OR DOMINANT USERS OF THE LINES ON WHICH PASSENGER TRAINS OPERATE). THE ANSWER TO THIS PROBLEM IS MORE AFFORDABLE TECHNOLOGY AND COMMITMENTS FOR JOINT ACTION BY FREIGHT AND PASSENGER SERVICE PROVIDERS. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE AVOID ANY BURDEN ON PASSENGER SERVICE PROVIDERS THAT WOULD RESULT IN SERVICE CUTBACKS AND DIVERSION OF PASSENGERS TO LESS SAFE FORMS OF TRANSPORTATION. FORTUNATELY, INNOVATIVE TRAIN CONTROL APPROACHES ARE EMERGING THAT CAN MEET THE SAFETY NEEDS IDENTIFIED BY THE BOARD IN ITS RECOMMENDATIONS. IMPORTANTLY, FREIGHT AND PASSENGER OPERATORS NEED TO IMPLEMENT POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL SYSTEMS THAT ARE INTEROPERABLE, SO THAT MAXIMUM BENEFITS ARE ACHIEVED. IN THE ELECTRIFIED ENVIRONMENT OF NORTHEASTERN RAILROADING, AMTRAK'S ADVANCED CIVIL SPEED ENFORCEMENT SYSTEM (ACSES) PROVIDES A STRATEGY THAT CAN BOTH SUPPORT THE SAFETY OF HIGH-SPEED OPERATIONS AND PROVIDE A PLATFORM FOR INNOVATIVE AUTOMATIC TRAIN STOP STRATEGIES (SUCH AS THE SYSTEM UNDER IMPLEMENTATION ON NEW JERSEY TRANSIT). OUTSIDE THE NORTHEAST, COMMUNICATION-BASED APPROACHES USING DIFFERENTIAL CORRECTION OF GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM (GPS) LOCATION DATA BEAR GREAT PROMISE. THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET FOR FY 1999 CALLS FOR DEPLOYMENT OF A NATIONAL DIFFERENTIAL GPS SYSTEM TO SERVE SURFACE TRANSPORTATION NEEDS. IN SHORT, FRA CONCURS THAT IMPLEMENTATION OF MORE CAPABLE TRAIN CONTROL SYSTEMS CAN CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY TO THE SAFETY OF PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE. IN GENERAL, WHERE COLLISION RISK WOULD OTHERWISE BE VERY HIGH, APPROPRIATE SYSTEMS ARE ALREADY IN PLACE. THIS HELPS ACCOUNT FOR THE EXCELLENT SAFETY RECORD OF PASSENGER RAILROADS. NEVERTHELESS, FURTHER DEPLOYMENT OF SYSTEMS THAT CAN MAINTAIN POSITIVE TRAIN SEPARATION AND PROVIDE OTHER SAFETY BENEFITS WILL BE REQUIRED. FRA IS PRESSING FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF PTC AND SIMILAR SYSTEMS IN WAYS THAT ARE REASONABLE TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THE MIX OF TRAFFIC, DIVISION OF BENEFITS FLOWING FROM THE SYSTEMS, OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTEROPERABILITY OF ONBOARD EQUIPMENT, AND THE READINESS OF AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY. TO BRING ABOUT PTC, FRA HAS SET OUT TO: ASSESS RISK ON RAIL CORRIDORS THAT COULD BE REDUCED BY PTC SYSTEMS; UPDATE AND REFINE COST-BENEFIT ANALYSES; DEMONSTRATE AND EVALUATE PTC TECHNOLOGIES; INVEST IN ENHANCED TRAIN CONTROL ON THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR; PROMOTE INTEROPERABILITY OF PTC SYSTEMS; FACILITATE INTRODUCTION OF NEW TECHNOLOGY THROUGH REGULATORY ACTION; AND SUPPORT FEDERAL POLICIES NECESSARY FOR SUCCESSFUL PTC SYSTEMS. THE FIRST STEP IN DETERMINING PRIORITY SAFETY NEEDS AND OPPORTUNITIES IS TO BETTER DEFINE RISK. THE CORRIDOR RISK STUDY THAT WAS DISCUSSED WITH THE RSAC ON 6/24/97, PROVIDES AN IMPORTANT TOOL THAT WE HAVE ASKED RSAC TO REFINE AND APPLY IN ANALYZING THIS ISSUE. PASSENGER SERVICE IS A PROMINENT FACTOR IN THIS ANALYSIS. FRA IS ALSO TAKING CONCRETE STEPS TO DEMONSTRATE AND DEPLOY PTC SYSTEMS. ON THE NORTHEAST CORRIDOR, THE NATION'S MOST HEAVILY UTILIZED PASSENGER LINE, FRA IS SUPPORTING INSTALLATION OF THE ACSES, COMPLEMENTING THE EXISTING ACS/ATC SYSTEM. SEE NOTICE OF PROPOSED ORDER AT 62 FR 62097 (11/20/97). FRA AND THE FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION HAVE ALSO BEEN ENCOURAGING PASSENGER RAILROADS TO CONSIDER INVESTMENTS IN PTC SYSTEMS. NEW JERSEY TRANSIT RAIL OPERATIONS HAS SIGNIFICANT PLANS TO USE ITS VERSION OF THE ACSES SYSTEM TO ACHIEVE INTERMITTENT TRAIN STOP CAPABILITIES ON THEIR LINES OFF THE NEC. THROUGH A GRANT TO THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, FRA IS FUNDING DEVELOPMENT OF AN INCREMENTAL TRAIN CONTROL SYSTEM WITH CAPABILITIES SUPERIOR TO ACS OR ATS, AND THAT SYSTEM SHOULD BE CUT IN FOR REVENUE SERVICE IN 1998. FRA HAS BEEN WORKING ACTIVELY WITH THE BNSF/UNION PACIFIC POSITIVE TRAIN SEPARATION TEST PROGRAM AND HAS BEEN IN ACTIVE CONVERSATION WITH THESE RAILROADS REGARDING THEIR FUTURE PLANS FOR EVEN MORE CAPABLE SYSTEMS. AT THE TIME, WE HAVE SOUGHT TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH THE STATES OF WASHINGTON AND OREGON FOR CONSIDERATION OF PASSENGER SAFETY NEEDS. ON 1/23/98, SECRETARY SLATER AND ADMINISTRATOR MOLITORIS MET WITH THE ASSOCIATION OF REVENUE DEMONSTRATION OF PTC TECHNOLOGY. THE AAR WILL PARTNER WITH FRA, THE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD, AND THE STATE OF ILLINOIS FOR DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT OF PTC ON A PORTION OF THE LINE BETWEEN ST. LOUIS AND CHICAGO WHICH IS USED FOR BOTH PASSENGER SERVICE AND FREIGHT SERVICE. THE PRODUCT OF THIS EFFORT WILL BE A FULLY VITAL TRAIN CONTROL SYSTEM SUITABLE FOR USE ACROSS THE NATION, COUPLED WITH A RENEWED EFFORT TO ASCERTAIN THE MEANS BY WHICH VARIOUS TRAIN CONTROL SYSTEMS WILL BE MADE INTEROPERABLE. THIS INITIATIVE BRINGS TOGETHER PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR RAILROAD INTERESTS, PROVIDING THE FORUM FOR DEFINING IN A VERY PRACTICAL WAY THE FUTURE COURSE OF TRAIN CONTROL ADVANCES. FRA IS ALSO WORKING TO FORMALIZE THE INDUSTRY'S COMMITMENT TO PTC AND TO DETERMINE STRATEGIES AND TIME LINES. ON 9/30/97, FRA ASKED THE RSAC TO TAKE ON THREE RELATED TASKS THAT EXPLORE THE FUTURE OF PTC. THESE TASKS ADDRESS COSTS AND BENEFITS OF PTC (INCLUDING BUSINESS BENEFITS), THE READINESS OF AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY, AND POSSIBLE TIMETABLES FOR MAKING INTEROPERABLE PTC A REALITY ON MAJOR RAIL LINES. THE RSAC HAS FORMED A WORKING GROUP THAT INCLUDES ADVISORS FROM THE BOARD'S STAFF. THIS GROUP MET FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MID-NOVEMBER AND IS ACTIVELY PURSUING ITS OBJECTIVES. AN EARLY PRODUCT OF THE RSAC EFFORT WILL BE A PROPOSED REVISION TO CURRENT SIGNAL AND TRAIN CONTROL REGULATIONS. THE PROPOSED RULES WILL HELP CREATE A MORE PREDICTABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR INTRODUCING NEW FORMS OF TRAIN CONTROL THAT CAN ACCOMPLISH POSITIVE TRAIN SEPARATION AND OTHER SAFETY FUNCTIONS AT REDUCED COST, PERMITTING MORE WIDE-SCALE APPLICATION.

From: NTSB
To: FRA
Date:
Response: At the 1990 Board meeting addressing the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements (MWL), the Board voted to place Safety Recommendation R-87-16 on the MWL under the issue category "Positive Train Separation." Safety Recommendations R-91-25, R-93-12, R-93-13, and R-97-13 were added to the MWL in this category at later dates. At the May 15, 2001 Board meeting addressing the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements (MWL), the Board voted to place Safety Recommendation R-01-6 on the MWL under this issue category. At the May 15, 2001 meeting, the Board also voted to change the category's title to “Positive Train Control Systems.” This issue was removed from the MWL in 2008.