Batory Provides Upbeat PTC Report

During his remarks to the Senate Commerce Committee this week Federal Railroad Administration head Ronald Batory was mostly optimistic about the ability of U.S. railroads to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to install positive train control systems or qualify for an extension .

At the same time, he and others conceded there is much work to be done.

“I’m beginning to see daylight at the end of the tunnel, but the question is how fast can we get to the end of the tunnel,” Batory said in his remarks.

He likened the process of meeting the PTC deadline to a soap opera.

In response to a question from Committee Chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota), Batory said there will be no suspension of service unless a carrier elects to do it itself.

“The FRA does not have the ability to impose that type of action after 12 31,” he said in reference to the statutory deadline to install PTC.

Batory said FRA reports indicate that freight railroads have completed 80 percent of the steps to full implementation of PTC while commuter railroads have completed 60 percent and Amtrak, is 70 percent done implementing PTC on lines it owns.

During his testimony, Batory said it was “hard to rationalize” imposing any sanctions less than the maximum fine of $27,000 per day for non-compliance with the law.

Noting that would total nearly $10 million per year, Batory said, “Hopefully nobody’s going to run the clock out that far. Hopefully nobody’s going to get past [year end]. But if they do, I would recommend nothing less than ‘full retail.’ ”

Batory said the FRA has not yet considered imposing consent decrees on non-compliant railroads that would require them to complete PTC installation by a specific date.

Nine railroads are at risk of missing the Dec. 31 deadline while about 80 percent of the railroads are expected to seek an extension of time to complete PTC installation.

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