By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Technology that can reduce train accidents is coming to Maryland’s commuter rail system, and it’s designed to take over when humans make mistakes.

MARC is on a roll.

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Ridership on Maryland’s commuter rail system is up, and protecting those passengers is about to ramp up with positive train control.

“Positive train control, or PTC, is like the air traffic control system for trains,” said Erich Kolig, with MTA. “What it does is make sure that trains are separated and stay separated.”

PTC relies on GPS satellites, radio towers, and ground sensors to monitor a train’s speed and location.

If it detects a train is going too fast or being operated unsafely, on board computers will kick in and slow it or stop it.

“If something goes wrong with the engineer, that train will automatically stop,” Kolig said.

Positive train control could have prevented the 2015 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia that killed eight and injured 200.

Accident investigations now routinely look to see if PTC could have made a difference.

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“That is absolutely one area we always look into in every rail accident,” said one NTSB investigator.

MARC has secured more than $9 million in federal funds to bring PTC on board.

There will be a computer system that will back up the current control center, and a PTC computer in each train’s locomotive.

That technology will tie into the big ticket costs of satellites and track sensors already installed on the rail lines MARC rents.

This will help prevent accidents when it’s up and running.

“It’s making sure that accidents that have happened recently don’t occur on the MARC system,” said Kolig.

Federal regulations set a deadline of Decemenr 2018 for PTC systems to be up and running, and MARC says it can meet that deadline.

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