Union Pacific Calming Concerns Over Remote Control Trains - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Union Pacific Calming Concerns Over Remote Control Trains

Posted: Updated:

HERMISTON, Ore.- Oregon leaders are concerned about train safety as Union Pacific prepares to start running remote control lines outside their Hermiston base.

Thousands of cars and many kids cross railroad tracks everyday, so do many trains, that's why in Hermiston, leaders are worried because, now, many of those trains won't have anyone in them.

"I can actually go forwards or backwards on here, with this selector here.  I've got speed control," said Mike Alder, a conductor.

In April 2006, a remote controlled train crashed.  13 cars were destroyed.  That's why Union Pacific hosted local officials at their Hermiston switchyard today to explain just how the system works, and assure them when they start remote operations outside the yard, it will be safe.

"It is, it is, it is reassuring to know that these guys can see each other, they know what's going on.  They've got full control of the locomotive, and the technology seems to be pretty bulletproof," said Justin Pearce with the City of Pendleton.

Union Pacific assures its neighbors the tracks are still safe.

"We'll be moving over public crossings, the public still gets the same warnings as they would with a headlight, horn and bell, from the remote control operator," said Larry Breeden with Union Pacific. 

Operators can control the train from as far as a mile away, but Union Pacific says they won't be operating at that distance.  Two operators will be on board or within sight of each locomotive.

If those controls fail, the trains are set to automatically shut down, a fail safe Union Pacific says should prevent more incidents like last year's.

Union Pacific admits there have been accidents with these remote systems in the past but says the accident rate with remote is about the same as with a normal conductor.