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Proposal would fine railroads that don’t use safety system

  • The site of Sunday’s early morning train crash between an Amtrak train, bottom, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce, S.C. Federal investigators are planning to give an update on their probe into a deadly crash between a freight train and a passenger train in South Carolina. The National Transportation Safety Board says on Twitter that the agency will hold a meeting briefing at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.( AP Photo/Jeff Blake)
  • National Transportation and Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt gestures during a press briefing in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, as he speaks on the investigation of Sunday’s train collision in Cayce, S.C. Railway signals were out while crews installed a safety system that could have prevented the exact type of crash that killed two people in South Carolina when an Amtrak train was diverted to a side track and slammed head-on into an empty freight train, authorities said Monday. (Tracy Glantz/The State via AP)
  • The site of Sunday’s early morning train crash between an Amtrak train, bottom, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce, S.C. Federal investigators are planning to give an update on their probe into a deadly crash between a freight train and a passenger train in South Carolina. The National Transportation Safety Board says on Twitter that the agency will hold a meeting briefing at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.( AP Photo/Jeff Blake)
  • The site of Sunday’s early morning train crash between an Amtrak train, bottom, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce, S.C. Federal investigators are planning to give an update on their probe into a deadly crash between a freight train and a passenger train in South Carolina. The National Transportation Safety Board says on Twitter that the agency will hold a meeting briefing at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.( AP Photo/Jeff Blake)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina lawmaker wants to fine rail companies that don’t implement a safety system investigators say could have prevented a deadly weekend crash, complaining that delays and extensions have dragged on for a decade.

A bill proposed Wednesday by state Sen. Marlon Kimpson would levy fines of at least $2,500 per month against rail companies that don’t have “positive train control” systems installed by the end of this year, in compliance with a current federal deadline.

“Unless they have some incentive to complete the project, they have every incentive to delay,” Kimpson said.

A decade ago, Congress passed a law requiring railroads to adopt the technology on all tracks that carry passenger trains. A requirement for liquid-hauling freight trains was prompted by a 2005 train wreck in Graniteville, South Carolina, in which nine people were killed and more than 250 were treated for exposure to gases from a toxic chlorine spill.

Intended to prevent trains from colliding or derailing, the positive train control system relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train positions and automatically slow or stop trains that are in danger of colliding, derailing from excessive speed, or about to enter track where crews are working.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have said the system could have helped prevent an Amtrak passenger train from slamming into a CSX Corp. freight train parked on a siding early Sunday. The Amtrak conductor and engineer were killed in the crash near Cayce, South Carolina, and more than 100 passengers were injured.

Railroads were initially given seven years to start using the technology across the country’s 20,000 locomotives and 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) of track. But when it became clear that few if any railroads would meet the deadline, Congress extended it another three years to Dec. 31, 2018, with the option to grant railroads that show progress an additional two years to Dec. 31, 2020. Several freight railroads have previously told the government they won’t be able to meet the 2018 deadline.

Both industry experts and rail companies have attributed implementation delays to costs and the sheer size of the nation’s rail system.

Kimpson, who worked on cases associated with the Graniteville crash, said that it’s past time to act, before another catastrophe.

“I just want to move swiftly and act expeditiously,” he said.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read more of her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.

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