GAO Says RRs Optimistic About Meeting PTC Deadline

Although most railroads are optimistic about implementing positive train control systems by the end of this year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently said railroads face tight schedules to get the work done.

GAO said that as of Dec. 31, 2019, 17 of the 31 railroads required to have an interoperable PTC system, meaning it can be used by all tenant railroads on its tracks, had achieved that milestone.

In total 42 railroads must have PTC fully implemented by Dec. 31 of this year.

That means having a PTC system in place that has been certified by the Federal Railroad Administration.

GAO said at the end of 2019 more than three-quarters of the railroads were conducting advanced testing or had implemented PTC on their own tracks, but had work left to reach full implementation.

In previous reports, GAO said software and vendor issues have hindered PTC implementation.

The most recent GAO report said those issues have grown more acute as many railroads face compressed schedules to meet the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline.

Railroads will need to complete some tasks tasks in a shorter time than originally planned due to software issues or other unique circumstances.

GAO said the COVID-19 pandemic create risks that could affect some railroads’ ability to meet the deadline.

The report said the FRA, vendors and railroads are taking steps to mitigate those risks.

FRA officials have worked with railroads to identify solutions to technical problems and have provided resources to regions identified as needing additional implementation assistance.

The GAO report quoted FRA officials as saying they are “closely monitoring” the effect of the pandemic on PTC implementation.

Nonetheless, GAO said it was told by the FRA, vendors and railroads that they are optimistic that they’ll overcome these challenges and achieve full PTC implementation on schedule.

Four railroads reported considering contingency plans if they, or their tenants, cannot meet the deadline, GAO officials said.

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