NTSB Safety Recommendations

By: Erich Spivey
By: Erich Spivey

November 15, 2005
One day before the release of a new report about the Graniteville train accident, the NTSB is meeting about ways to prevent future accidents. News 12 is following the National Transportation Safety Board’s most wanted safety recommendations.

It’s called the NTSB Most Wanted List, and positive train control systems have been on it since 1990.

Now, a preview of the future. This system warns of problems ahead.

Important locally after the Graniteville train wreck in January that killed nine. Many suspect that an improperly placed switch is the culprit. Nine other rail accidents are currently under investigation. In all of 2003, there were 145 collisions and 91 percent were caused by human error.

“With some of the major accidents we’ve had, I’ve seen more emphasis on the development of positive train control systems,” said Robert Chipkevich, NTSB Railroad Investigator.

But Debbie Hersman, the lead investigator in Graniteville, questioned the timeline of future action.

“When do we expect to go from pilot program to implementation?” Hersman said.

“I think that’s something we need to continue to push,” Chipkevich said.

“Often when you can’t get something done, they study it or do a pilot. I think that’s where we are and I don’t think we’re going to move out of that. I don’t think we’re going to move out of that environment unless something changes and unfortunately that may be a lot of accidents have to happen before something changes,” Hersman said.

So what’s the holdup? Many point the finger at cost. To overhaul the US rail industry with positive control systems could cost $350 million. But some estimate that it could cost as high as $1 million a mile.

We’re expecting the NTSB to release a lengthy report Wednesday on the Graniteville investigation. It will include interview transcripts and records, everything but a probably cause, which is expected later this month.

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