November 16, 2018
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Downeaster train service ‘not in jeopardy’ going into 2019, rail authority says

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
In this Dec. 8, 2011, file photo, the Amtrak Downeaster passenger train travels through Portland, Maine.

Amtrak will continue to service the Downeaster route from Massachusetts to Maine despite the rail line not having an automatic braking technology.

The Downeaster line is not required to have the technology — positive train control — because fewer than 12 trips per day run on the line, according to Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which contracts with Amtrak to run the Downeaster.

“Amtrak has gone through a review of all lines, even those that aren’t required to have [positive train control], and conducted safety assessments and there are no risks associated with the Downeaster line,” Quinn said. “The route is not in jeopardy at all.”

Quinn’s remarks come after a Monday report posted online by Trains magazine suggested any rail lines without positive train control could lose their Amtrak services by the end of this year.

The Downeaster services parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, where it has stops in Wells, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Freeport and Brunswick.

Positive train control is an automatic braking system that uses sensors along the tracks to monitor speed in tandem with an on-board computer system, according to CBS affiliate WGME.

In accordance with a federal mandate, Amtrak is working with rail owners and carriers to install and implement positive train control technology across its network. However, some lines, such as the Downeaster, are exempt from the federal mandate, and some have qualified for an extension from the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an [Federal Rail Authority]-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in email.

Quinn said that because positive train control technology is not required on the Downeaster line, New England rail authority is “not considering” installing the technology at this time.

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