DENVER (CBS4) – Officials say a new train speed technology, already being tested along FasTracks to Denver International Airport, will prevent a disaster such as the fatal derailment in Philadelphia from ever happening.

It’s called Positive Train Control (PTC). Regional Transportation District FasTracks crews say 40-foot towers every mile along the track monitor train speed and track geometry to automatically shut the train down if it’s approaching too fast.

A tight curve on the FasTracks rail to DIA (credit: CBS)

A tight curve on the FasTracks rail to DIA (credit: CBS)

FasTracks to DIA boasts the first new commuter rail in the nation with the new technology.

In 2008 Congress mandated all railroads to incorporate the new safety system into their trains by the end of this year. Unfortunately, that deadline didn’t come soon enough for the eight passengers who died in Philadelphia when a train derailed at speeds of over 100 miles per hour on Tuesday.

Kevin Flynn, Public Information Manager for the RTD commuter rail project, showed CBS4’s Melissa Garcia the tightest curve along the train’s route to DIA. On a track where top speeds reach 79 miles per hour, the curve has a speed limit of only 20 — a limit that PTC technology will automatically prevent trains from going over.

Satellite-monitored computers in every train, and at towers every mile along the track, will shut the train down if it’s approaching a curve too fast.

A Positive Train Control tower on the FasTracks rail to DIA (credit: CBS)

A Positive Train Control tower on the FasTracks rail to DIA (credit: CBS)

“When they sense that the train is moving too fast into an area where it needs to slow down, the Positive Train Control system positively takes over that train and brings it to a stop,” Flynn said. “It doesn’t just slow it down, it brings it to a stop.”

In addition to PTC, the new commuter rail and the light rail use what’s called ATC, or Automatic Train Control, to keep trains from colliding.

“So PTC, Positive Train Control, is more for speed control around the track curves, and the geometry,” Flynn said. “ATC, Automatic Train Control, is if the operator blows through a red signal.”

Engineers are already testing the new technology. RTD expects to have the rail to DIA open to passengers around June of next year.

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