Rail accidents and derailments are down nearly 50% over the last decade. Railroads have been reconfiguring highway-rail crossings to separate the two and improve safety. While fewer people are being killed or sustaining injuries in highway-rail crossing incidents, 237 people were killed and 991 people were injured in 2015. To further improve safety and reduce accidents associated with operator error, like the 2015 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia which cost eight lives, the federal government has required the installation of positive train control (PTC) by 2018. PTC is a signal technology designed to prevent collisions and ensure safe operating speeds and will be required for all lines carrying passengers.
Rail resilience is often tested by extreme weather events, which degrade infrastructure and lead to delays as well as concerns about continuing availability of service. Super Storm Sandy demonstrated the need to address resiliency, as key tunnels under the East River and Hudson River were severely damaged.
Railroads have adapted new technologies to monitor the health of the rails and target problem areas for maintenance. Innovations include infrastructure condition data collection and processing tools, such as track geometry cars that travel over the rails looking for defects. Technology includes onboard tools that check the alignment of the track and acoustic and heat sensors that monitor passing trains for potential issues. These technologies help detect problems early and prevent derailments, and early results suggest such monitoring prevented more than 1,000 service interruptions in 2015.Back to Rail