Introductory Speech
Thomas F. Prendergast
President, MTA Long Island Railroad
November 7, 1997

"The Role of CBTC on the LIRR"

Iím sure many of you attended the Railway Age CBTC Conference last May in Washington, DC and perhaps heard my speech there. At that time I described, in general terms, what we feel are some of the major benefits that CBTC provide. To quickly reiterate, they include:

Since that time we have been moving forward here at the LIRR. We are beginning to make the transition from planning to implementation. In order to put this progress into some perspective, Iíll relate this to the LIRRís Signal Strategy, on which Vic will elaborate later.

It is also our view that while there is real risk in implementing any new technology, these risks will not center around technical issues. The real challenge will be in the overcoming our own resistance to change and committing ourselves to making CBTC happen. While the Signal community has been conservative historically (and understandably so given its mandate to ensure safety), I submit to you however that the benefits of CBTC will justify the adoption of new and innovative approaches. After all, innovation and safety are not mutually exclusive.

The Signal Strategy is the result of a directive I made after realizing that there appeared to be no cohesive plan in place on signaling issues in either the short- or the long-term. There were plans at the time to proceed with the Jamaica Central Control project. Even though this was (and is) to be a non-vital system, its extensive scope pointed to the need for coordinating efforts on the vital side as well.

The Signal Strategy is a plan that directs all LIRR signaling activities over a period of about twenty years. It addresses the upgrading of the condition of systems as well as their suitability to supporting current and future service demands. A considerable portion of our signaling is old, obsolete and in poor condition. Therefore, the early phases of the plan concern the restoration of a state of good repair. In later stages, projects aimed at expanding service capabilities are introduced, our CBTC initiatives lie in this category. It identifies 61 projects spread out over the current, and the next three five-year Capital Programs with an estimated cost of about $700 Million. It was presented to parent agency, the MTA, in June of this year and received a favorable reaction.

The role of CBTC on the LIRR can be summarized very simply: It is our intention that CBTC will be installed exclusively on the entire railroad. It is apparent that commitment to CBTC must be an "all-or-nothing" proposition in the long run. The realities of economics are such that no property will be able to support what amounts to two distinct signal systems.

Having made this our long-term commitment, some reasonable and logical implementation plan for getting there needed to be devised. The Signal Strategy addresses this in a "four-pronged" plan of attack designed to drive CBTC development. Each of these four initiative are intended to investigate different aspects and capabilities of CBTC. Frankly, we are attempting to "cover as many bases" as possible given the risks and uncertainties I mentioned before. We feel this approach is justified because we are serious about making CBTC work and enjoying its benefits.


The four initiatives are:

Having outlined our CBTC plan, I would like to state that the LIRR is prepared to support and use the expected IEEE consensus standard, provided that it serves our needs.

This Working Group has recently changed its direction to concentrate on "high level" functions and performance. The onus for actively driving the process is therefore directed toward the transit agencies to describe what they need. It is only after these basic requirements are set that realistic solutions can be sought.