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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

First Confirmed PTC Casualties

I have always maintained that PTC was going to kill people and not just in the sense that it makes rail transportation uncompetitive with highway travel.  Of course the assumed cause of these deaths would be a PTC penalty brake application on a long freight train in a mountain territory leading to a runaway.  Well I'll be the first to admit when I am wrong because the first PTC related deaths happened when an Amtrak train hit a mis-aligned hand operated switch at track speed due to a signal suspension facilitating a PTC-motivated re-signaling project. 

19th century technology reliably tells me the switch on track 2 is lined and locked.
What is really gauling is how the media keeps saying that PTC would have prevented the accident.  Well do you know what else would have prevented it?  A functioning block signaling system, with or without cab signal ATC!  This is probably a good harbinger of the other way PTC will kill people.  By making train crews reliant on an electronic crutch, the accident rate will increase when operating under contingency circumstances, like a signal suspension (or a run of the mill PTC outage).  Crews get used to the cab display warning them of that 30mph curve and when it doesn't, boom.  We've seen this countless times with Airbus' horrible human factors engineering that pretty much ensures that pilots will stall and crash the plane when the computer training wheels come off.

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