Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board
Closing Remarks
Positive Train Control: Is It On Track?
Washington, DC - February 27, 2013
(As Prepared for Delivery)


On behalf of my fellow Board members, I want to thank everyone who has participated in this forum — especially our panelists, who took the time to provide us with thorough and informative presentations and to answer our many questions. And, many thanks to the NTSB team, especially Mike Hiller, for the great work putting this forum together.

It has been an informative day. There are issues and there are challenges, but as I said at the outset, PTC is not a new technology, nor is the discussion we had today a new conversation. But, today, we brought together the experts and the key players, again, to talk about railroading and its safer future.

We all know the classic children's story The Little Engine That Could. Far bigger and more powerful locomotives refuse to pull a long train over a high mountain. But, the little engine takes on the assignment and its can-do attitude succeeds to pull the long train over the mountain.

Yes, the technology and the tools to implement PTC are available. Perhaps what we need to hear about is not what can't be done, but what can be done.

Although many of us have been at this a long time, I thought Grady (Cothen) offered some valuable insight this morning when he said, "We need to stop looking back. We need to look forward."

So, as we look forward, we see a few railroads that have worked hard to comply with the mandate. Darrell Maxey told us about the progress being made by Metrolink in Southern California - with the support of BNSF and UP. Keith Holt shared Amtrak's progress with the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System on the northeast corridor and Incremental Train Control System in Michigan.

We heard from Dr. Hartong and David Blackmore about other companies committed to implementation, including Alaska Railroad and BNSF. These railroads and their employees have worked hard and made commitments to comply with the law.

I'm often asked about the work we at NTSB do. "Isn't it hard to visit accident sites and see what you see?"

Yes, it can be hard, but, to a person, our people do this work knowing that by going to accident sites, by investigating and by learning what happened that makes it possible for us to make recommendations that can prevent accidents and save lives.

They believe that their work makes a difference.

What is hard is when our recommendations go unheeded and we see the same accident over and over again and more lives needlessly cut short. That's when it gets hard.

So, let's look forward to a railroad community taking on the tough assignment and pulling that long PTC train to safer operations.

We stand adjourned.