Full implementation of positive train control (PTC) systems across the nation’s rail network is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) in 2018, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a recent statement.
PTC systems are designed to automatically stop a train in order to prevent collisions with other trains and equipment on the tracks.
In a Dec. 27 batch of letters mailed to the chief executives of 47 railroads across the U.S., Chao expressed concern about the insufficient levels of PTC implementation so far.
PTC was imposed on the railroads by Congress in 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act, and amended by the 2015 Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act. To give the railroads more time for implementation, the initial 2015 deadline was extended to Dec. 31, 2018.
According to U.S. DOT, eight of the 37 railroads required to implement PTC systems on their own tracks have obtained the Federal Railroad Administration's conditional PTC System Certification. Twelve railroads have completed installation of all hardware necessary for PTC system implementation, and another 12 railroads said they have installed less than 50% of the hardware required for their PTC systems, as of Sept. 30, 2017.
U.S. DOT said 26 railroads have started field testing PTC systems on segments of track. Data submitted by these railroads has shown that by Sept. 30, 2017, these PTC systems are in operation on 45 percent of the required route miles of track owned by freight railroads and 24 percent of the route miles of track owned by passenger railroads, the department said.
Railroads may request an extension on the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline, but DOT warned that civil penalties will be issued to railroads that fail to implement PTC systems. The railroads have complained that PTC, which relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers, is complicated and expensive to install.
Source: American Shipper