The railroad industry is downplaying expectations that a safety technology that could have prevented recent deadly train crashes will be in operation across the country by the end of the year.

Freight and commuter rail officials speak as if there was never any plan to complete their work on the technology known as positive train control by Dec. 31.

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Congress required in 2008 that railroads adopt the technology and gave them seven years to do the job. That was extended to the end of this year when it became clear railroads wouldn't meet the first deadline.

Officials at rail industry trade associations now say they view Dec. 31 as the date by which railroads must qualify for an extension of as much as two more years, not the ultimate deadline.

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