Stay ‘Positive’: Queens Is First to Receive LIRR Safety Advancement

A Long Island Rail Road rain arrives at Jamaica.  Eagle  photo by Jonathan Sperling.

A Long Island Rail Road rain arrives at Jamaica. Eagle photo by Jonathan Sperling.

By Jonathan Sperling

The Long Island Rail Road has begun rolling out a new “positive” safety feature on the Port Washington Branch — which means a safer trip for commuters travelling from Queens and Long Island.

Positive Train Control (PTC) was rolled out on the 16-mile stretch of tracks between Woodside and Port Washington on Dec. 17, becoming the first segment of the LIRR to receive enhanced train safety by using a network of computers that can communicate rail conditions in real time, according to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The new feature will contribute to a reduction in train-to-train collisions, trains traveling into zones where railroad employees are working on tracks, or derailments caused by a train traveling too fast into a curve or into a misaligned switch.

“While no single technology can eliminate all risk, the introduction of PTC dramatically reduces the risk of train accidents, MTA Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren said. “The MTA remains steadfast in its drive to sustain and improve safety measures in all aspects of the operation of its railroads.”

The PTC system effectively eliminates the chance of human error by placing a network of computers along tracks and on trains that are in constant communication with a central hub.

Similar to how traffic lights signal to cars when they should speed up or slow down, lights along the LIRR’s tracks flash red or green to indicate whether a train must stop or proceed. PTC works by detecting if a train is moving too fast for a given stretch of track and automatically steps in to slow or stop the train.

With the PTC system in place along the Port Washington Branch, LIRR riders in Woodside, Flushing, Murray Hill, Auburndale, Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck will be in for a safer commute.

The LIRR will roll-out PTC across the entire network before the end of 2020, according to the MTA.

“The Long Island Rail Road’s unceasing drive to introduce this important new safety system allowed us to overcome numerous challenging obstacles to reach this important milestone, and that we are very pleased to have introduced this new level of improved safety,” said LIRR President Phil Eng. “Safety is a core value of the Long Island Rail Road, and we aggressively look for new and better ways to improve safety across the entire rail network.”