No surprise to those who have read what I have written, but on the one hand, I'm of two minds regarding PTC, while on the other hand, my mind's made up. Maybe. Sort of. I think. For sure. Almost
On the one hand, I ask myself is PTC really necessary?
On the other hand, I think, that's not the real issue, is it?
On the one hand, I think there are other effective ways to accomplish what PTC is supposed to accomplish.
On the other hand, there is no guarantee that railroads will exert anywhere near the level of effort required to achieve that degree of safety
On the one hand, I know that the "business benefits" derived from PTC are only those benefits of running a safer railorad-- fewer collisions, less death and injury, less time spent "cleaning up."
On the other hand, this is not, or more exactly this is no longer an issue of business benefits.
On the one hand, I admit to, back in the day, feeling a bit of resentment whenever FRA told me what I "had to do.'
On the other hand, most of the time FRA wasn't telling me anything that either didn't make sense, or wasn't part of good railroad management, Emergency Order #20 being my favorite case in point.
On the one hand, I always thought I was ahead of legislation and regulation when it came to running a safe railroad.
On the other hand, that doesn't really matter, does it?
Ambivalence is a signature human characteristic, along with opposable thumbs, bipedalism, disco- dancing and credit cards, but sometimes you need to stop going from one hand to the other hand. The human mind can tolerate, even thrive on ambivalence. Human actions... not so much.
What makes the necessity of PTC no longer an issue; what makes the "other effective measures" moot; what makes the "business benefits" irrelevant; what makes my, or anyone's "pride of place," our reflex reaction to the "effrontery" of official actions immaterial-- what does away with all that is the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
RSIA did away with all that and more. RSIA is the law. The law was enacted as a measure of public safety. The benefits to be measured are measured in the terms of that safety-- a life saved; a person not evacuated; an injury not incurred.
The law says, implicitly, that all the alternatives to PTC; all this talk about absolute block here, absolute block there; all the timetable special instructions, bulletin orders, safety briefings may still be necessary, but they are no longer sufficient.
On the one hand, I'm not one to accept the sufficiency of the way we used to do things. On the other hand, I'm not about to equivocate about the necessity of doing things better, that is to say, more safely.
So both hands come to a point that says, we have to make PTC work as it is intended to work-- as positive, not permissive, train control. To do that we must positively identify both the head end and rear end of a train in order to properly determine the location and measure the occupancy of the train.
We do that to prevent the overlapping of authorities; to give PTC the positive limits to a train following another train.... and all trains follow other trains.
March 20, 2013