A New Jersey Transit train plowed through a major station in Hoboken during Thursday morning’s rush-hour commute, killing at least one person and injuring more than 100 others, officials said.
Witnesses said the train overran its stopping point, slammed into a bumper block, went airborne and hurtled through a passenger concourse at about 8:45 a.m. at the terminal, one of the busiest transit hubs in the New York area. (CNN)
We think of ourselves in the US as technologically superior to other countries. However, when it comes to our rail system we are decades behind almost everyone but the third world countries.
In the case of this morning’s train wreck at Hoboken, it looks as if the 60-second emergency stop mechanism was inadequate. Once the engineer who, for whatever reason, could not react in time, the train and the passengers were headed for trouble.
If we wanted to, we could have the best designed, safest, local and long-distance trains in the world. The fact of the matter is that just about anything and everything to do with the country’s infrastructure and the equipment on it is slowly going to h… in a handbasket. Years of neglecting to modernize and implement substantial improvements to essential safety equipment on all trains suggest that the chance of avoiding this type of accident are not getting any better.
If we are able to design fully autonomous cars, which do not have the benefit of running on rails in known pre-determined directions, why on earth haven’t we designed trains that can be driven from a central remote location using onboard cameras relaying live visuals, with all the required stops, etc., properly preprogrammed?
It is just too convenient to blame crashes on human error. The danger is that our trains are semi-automatic, leaving the Engineer with too little to do to keep him focussed during the long and boring hours at the helm. A moment’s lack of concentration in this situation can mean disaster. Trains should either be completely automatic or completely manual.
We are falling behind, technologically speaking, many other countries and have a smaller safety margin when the unexpected happens. This is not just about trains, but also about roads, bridges, highways, and byways. Our country’s infrastructure must be addressed by Washington. “Bigly!!”
If we are able to fly to the moon and back, surely we can fix our trains!