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New brakes being tested on freight train in Pennsylvania
Published: October 12, 2007
Source: Linda Young - AHN News
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Washington, D.C. (AHN) - Safer brakes for the nation's freight trains is being tested on coal trains in southwestern Pennsylvania. The new technology uses an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brake on every rail car on a train instead of the old air brake system.

That means a train can stop quicker.

More people die in highway-rail grade crossing crashes in the U.S. every year than die in commercial and general aviation crashes combined, with the majority of those accidents occurring within 25 miles of home, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Because instead of the brakes being applied sequentially from one rail car to the next, with ECP technology all the brakes are applied uniformly and instantaneously to every rail car in the train.

"These railroads understand using ECP brake technology can bring significant safety and business benefits, and I encourage other railroads to follow their lead," Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Joseph H. Boardman said in a statement on Thursday.

The FRA says that trains equipped with the new brakes provide continual electronic self-diagnostic system checks to let train crews know when maintenance is needed. That means a train can safely travel a longer distance without having to stop for routine brake inspections, which will mean less delays for delivering freight cargo over long distances.

Boardman said the new ECP brakes would allow a container train to travel all the way from a West Coast port to Chicago without stopping except to refuel and change crews.

The new trains will also speed up delivery of coal from western coalfields to eastern and southern power plants, Boardman said.

Right now, the first train is operating on waivers to avoid more frequent manual brake inspections until officials are sure they have solved any problems with the new technology, officials say.

The nation has nearly a half a million freight cars, being pulled by 23,732 locomotives over more than 95,000 miles of railroad track, according to the American Association of Railroads.

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