They won the extension, but now the railroad industry is being told that they had better make good use of the additional time.
The Federal Railroad Administration has sent letters to railroads warning them that they will be held to a strict schedule to meet the new deadline to install positive train control systems.
“The focus has to remain on getting PTC up and running and implemented as soon as possible,” Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg said in a speech to a railroad conference last week. “I recognize that the legislation allows 2018 to be the goal and there can be a potential extension beyond 2018 to 2020. But the deadline is 2018. If you need to get to 2020, there are certain boxes that have to be checked in order to get there.”
In her letter to the railroads, Feinberg described what the FRA expects the railroads to do, which includes submit a detailed plan before the end of January for PTC implementation, with justifications for the pace at which the railroad intends to proceed.
Railroads are also to provide the FRA with annual reports thereafter.
Extensions beyond 2018 deadline will be considered only if a railroad had demonstrated a good-faith effort to comply with the federal mandate.
“What Feinberg was saying in her letter was ‘Don’t even send me a plan that says [you will complete installation by] 2020,’ ” an FRA official told The Washington Post. “Her main concern right now is that people are focused on 2020 and they’re not focused on 2018. She’s telling them, ‘If you happen to get to 2018 and you have met these criteria and benchmarks to be eligible [for an extension to 2020], then we’ll talk about it at that point.’”
Feinberg reiterated that point in her recent speech to the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee.
“Over the last year, I am sure you have observed that FRA is in a much more aggressive posture on PTC and everyone should expect for that posture to continue,” she said.