SEPTA on Track to Install Safety Technology

The agency is beating most railroads to the finish line.

Septa regional rail train

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Good news, Philadelphia: You won’t have to wait three more years for SEPTA trains to become safer.

Yes, Congress has decided to give the railroad industry an extra three years to install “positive train control” technology that would prevent the types of accidents that killed eight Amtrak passengers in Philly last spring. But SEPTA was already on track to have its PTC equipment installed by the original deadline, and that hasn’t changed.

“The extension will not cause SEPTA to pull back on our efforts,” SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said in an email. “We continue to follow our plan to implement a safe, viable and reliable PTC system by the previous December 31, 2015 deadline.”

SEPTA will gain some breathing room from the extended deadline, however. While the PTC equipment will be installed, Williams said, will ensure the agency has time to work out any technical issues that arise from implementing the system, and to ensure that the system works well for freight trains that also use SEPTA tracks.

The agency had been racing since early summer to meet the deadline, taking some cars out of service and squeezing commuter crowds in order to complete the work in a timely manner.

The new equipment will regulate and enforce train speeds — but it has additional capabilities as well, including features that prevent train-to-train collisions at crossover locations, among others. Then-SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey called the technology a “quantum leap forward for rail safety” in a September letter to federal officials overseeing the implementation.

SEPTA runs 740 trips across 13 regional rail lines daily.