Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is a United States federal law, enacted by Congress to improve railroad safety. Among its provisions, the most notable was the mandate requiring positive train control (PTC) technology to be installed on most of the US railroad network by 2015. This was spurred by the 2008 Chatsworth train collision the month prior to passage of the act.
Starting in 1990 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) counted PTC among its "Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements." At the time, the vast majority of rail lines relied on the human crew for complying with all safety rules, and a significant fraction of accidents were attributable to human error.
In September 2008, Congress considered a new rail safety law that sets a deadline of 2015 for implementation of PTC technology across most of the U.S. rail network. The bill, ushered through the legislative process by the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was developed in response to the collision of a Metrolink passenger train and a Union Pacific freight train September 12, 2008, in California, which resulted in the deaths of 25 and injuries to more than 135 passengers.
As the bill neared final passage by Congress, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) issued a statement in support of the bill. President George W. Bush signed the 315-page Rail Safety Improvement Act into law on October 16, 2008.
Provisions of the law
Among its provisions, the law provides funding to help pay for the development of PTC technology, limits the number of hours freight rail crews can work each month, and requires the Department of Transportation to determine work hour limits for passenger train crews.
In December 2010 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that Amtrak and the major Class I railroads have taken steps to install PTC systems under the law, but the work may not be complete by the 2015 deadline. The railroads and their suppliers are continuing to develop software to test various system components, which could delay equipment installation. GAO also suggests that publicly funded commuter railroads will have difficulty in obtaining funds to pay for their system components.
As of January 2012[update], Congress was considering bills that would extend the 2015 deadline of the Act, possibly granting the railroads an extension of several years. The AAR has indicated its support of the extension; at least one commuter rail operation, the SCCRA's Metrolink, has indicated opposition to any extension.
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Washington, DC (2010). "Modifications to NTSB Most Wanted List; List of Transportation Safety Improvements after September 1990."
- NTSB (2010). "NTSB Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements - Implement Positive Train Control Systems."
- Association of American Railroads, Washington, DC (2008-09-24). "Statement by Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO Association of American Railroads on Passage of the Comprehensive Rail Safety Bill." Press release.
- U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, Pub.L. 110–432, 122 Stat. 4848, 49 U.S.C. § 20101. Approved 2008-10-16.
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Washington, DC (2010-01-15). "Positive Train Control Systems; Final rule." Federal Register. 75 F.R. 2598
- U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, DC (December 2010). "Federal Railroad Administration Should Report on Risks to the Successful Implementation of Mandated Safety Technology." Report No. GAO-11-133.