May 14, 2015 / 9:02 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. lawmaker wants hearing on train safety controls

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers should consider forcing the rail industry to quickly adopt train safety controls that experts say could have prevented this week's deadly derailment in Philadelphia, a Republican senator said on Thursday.

Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire asked the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to schedule a hearing to discuss the merits of 'positive train control' (PTC) - a technology that can automatically stop a runaway train and otherwise prevent accidents.

Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said on Wednesday that PTC would have prevented the Philadelphia disaster.

Ayotte voted in March to give the rail industry until at least 2020 to implement PTC - effectively extending the deadline by five years.

"I believe the committee should use this hearing to examine the circumstances of the crash in Philadelphia and revisit the issue," Ayotte wrote Senator John Thune, the Republican chairman of the committee that oversees the train industry.

In the wake of the Philadelphia disaster in which at least 8 people were killed and more than 200 were injured, other lawmakers also suggested PTC should maybe brought online more quickly.

Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who in March also supported the 2020 deadline now believes a quicker ramp-up is required.

"He certainly won't support waiting another five years," a spokesman for the lawmaker said.

Reporting By Patrick Rucker; Editing by Christian Plumb

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