RTD train lacks automated braking system that could have prevented derailment

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DENVER—For drivers fed up with gridlock on Interstate 225, the "R" line is the answer to prayers.

However, on January 28th the "R" line was anything but reliable.

A train jumped the tracks in heavy snow. Passengers tumbled and one woman was actually tossed out of the door.

Her leg somehow got caught under the train and it was severed.

"We all feel horrible for everyone involved," said Pauletta Tonilas, Assistant General Manager of RTD Communications.

RTD now tells the FOX31 Problem Solvers that speed is to blame. Trains are supposed to slow down to 10 miles an hour while going around curves. The train that derailed was going about 30 miles per hour.

RTD has the technology to stop trains that are traveling too fast, it's an automated braking system called 'Positive Train Control.' It's used on the "A" and "B" lines, RTD's commuter lines, but the "R" line doesn't have it.

"Positive Train Control is not built into light rail systems. If the federal government decided it needed to happen we would issue that mandate, but that has not happened," explained Tonilas.

Why just commuter trains? While they look similar, commuter cars are much heavier. The trains also travel faster and take longer to stop. RTD says retrofitting light rail with the system just isn't practical.

"Positive Train Control is very expensive and a very complicated process," said Tonilas.

However, many regular riders on the "R" line say it's worth considering if it means preventing another tragedy like the one that happened a few weeks ago.

"Let's look at it. I mean, that's an incident that wouldn't have happened that way if the system would have been on board," said passenger Dan Berry.

RTD has fired the train operator,  Jeremiah Hartzell. He will likely face criminal charges.



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