San Diego

NCTD Puts San Diego at Forefront of Railway Safety

The North County Transit District is one of only four rail systems nationwide to meet the federal government’s New Year’s Eve deadline to install a new computerized safety system in all of its locomotives.

The system is called Positive Train Control (PTC). It’s a computer on board every locomotive entering San Diego County on an NCTD railway that alerts train engineers about unsafe conditions and, if needed, will stop the train automatically.

“We know the grade, the curvature, the elevation, speed restrictions for all of those locations,” said the North County Transit District’s Chief Operating Officer for Rail Eric Roe.

Roe said the PTC will help avoid derailments, train-to-train collisions, trains moving through misaligned track switches, and trains accidentally entering work zones.

“We had 17 pieces of equipment (locomotives) to equip, Amtrak has in the order of 300, and BNSF has in the order of 5,000,” Roe said.

If a problem presents itself, Roe said, “The computer would take over and bring the train to a stop.”

“The one thing that’s hard about that is that it’s something nobody will see and hopefully nobody will know that’s there,” Roe added.

There are 41 railroad districts throughout the United States. The 37 that did not meet the deadline liked the NTCD filed for extensions.

“It’s a monumental achievement for NCTD to reach this milestone,” he said.

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