Posts Tagged ‘PTC deadline’

BNSF Seeks PTC Deadline Extension

June 15, 2018

Over the past year there has been a cascade of reports about the progress that U.S. railroads are making toward installing positive train control systems on tracks that carry passengers or hazardous cargo.

The federal law that mandates PTC be installed by the end of this year also allows for an extension of the deadline if certain conditions are met.

The bid for an extension must be made to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Although the PTC deadline is still several months away, the first request for a two-year extension has been made and it has come from an unlikely source.

BNSF said last December that it had installed and was operating PTC on all subdivisions required to have it, making the western railroad a leader in PTC installation.

But BNSF is seeking the extension because of what it terms how the FRA is interpreting federal law as to the interoperability of PTC, which means that locomotives from one railroad can operate under the PTC systems of another carrier.

In a news release, BNSF said the FRA has interpreted federal law to mean that all other railroads operating across any of BNSF’s PTC-equipped lines must be capable of operating with BNSF’s PTC system, but not all railroads that use BNSF track will have completed their PTC installation by the end of this year.

BNSF also said that interoperability of PTC systems between Class I, commuter and short-line rail carriers “remains a challenge.”

The Fort Worth-based carrier said it has PTC in place on 88 required subdivisions covering more than 11,500 route miles.

Recently Amtrak and BNSF announced that two long-distance passenger trains using BNSF track, the Southwest Chief and California Zephyr, will begin using PTC this summer.

In a series of progress reports, the FRA has indicated that some railroads, particularly commuter carriers, are in jeopardy of not only missing the PTC installation deadline but also failing to make sufficient progress to qualify for an extension of the PTC deadline.

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FRA Outlines PTC Non Compliance Criteria

June 13, 2018

Although the Federal Railroad Administration has the authority to shut down a railroad for safety reasons, that is not necessarily going to be the consequence for railroads that fail to meet the Dec. 31 deadline to install positive train control.

An FRA executive said the sanctions on railroads that fail to meet the PTC deadline mandated by federal law will be decided by FRA Administrator Ronald Batory.

However, Carolyn Hayward-Williams, staff director of the FRA’s signal and train control division, told a PTC conference that being shut down is not necessarily going to happen because failing to meet the PTC deadline is not a likely criteria to justify ordering a railroad to halt operations.

Speaking to the  the Transport Security Congress’ seventh annual SafeRail conference, Hayward-Williams said railroads that show sufficient progress toward PTC installation may be granted a two-year extension to get their PTC systems up and running.

She said that railroads that fail to meet the criteria for such an extension and continue to operate will be subject to fines and penalties. They are also likely to face higher insurance costs.

Hayward-Williams said many railroads will not need the extension of time to install PTC and that that those that do have a plan to deliver and meet the qualifications for an extension.

The FRA is working with those railroads to help them come into compliance with federal law.

Installation is just one aspect of PTC. The FRA also will be inspecting railroad operations to check if railroads are in compliance with laws and regulations governing PTC operation.

The agency is working with the railroad industry to address how PTC compliance will be enforced.

“The FRA has a large inspection force to ensure compliance with our regulations. PTC introduces a nice little twist for us, given that it’s a performance-based regulation,” Hayward-Williams said. “We ultimately will need to ensure that the railroads meet the requirements in the safety plan, but we aren’t going to be giving all of our inspectors a 5,000-page safety plan to carry around.”

FRA Holding PTC Symposiums

June 8, 2018

A symposium about positive train control will be conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington on June 15.

During the event, the FRA’s PTC staff will discuss the requirements of the Dec. 31, 2018, statutory deadline to install PTC systems. By law 41 railroads must meet that deadline.

“The PTC Symposium is the latest effort from FRA to ensure that each and every railroad is aware of their obligations and is equipped to meet the congressionally mandated deadline,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory in a statement.

The FRA also is planning a July 16 symposium to discuss best practices for PTC system field-testing and interoperability testing.

A third meeting on Aug. 20 will cover lessons learned and best practices for PTC Safety Plans, which are necessary for host railroads to obtain PTC System Certification from the agency and to achieve full PTC system implementation under the statutory mandate.

Full implementation of a PTC system means that an FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system – including all hardware, software, and other components – has been fully installed, has been sufficiently tested, and is in operation on all route miles required to have operations governed by a PTC system under the mandate.

Commuter Rails Making PTC Progress

June 1, 2018

The American Public Transportation Association said this week that positive train control is in the testing phase, revenue service demonstration or full operation on 30 percent of the 3,339 miles of commuter rail in the United States.

Commuter railroads have installed 81 percent of the 15,192 pieces of onboard equipment needed for PTC and installed 79 percent of PTC-related track equipment, APTA officials said.

Sixty-one percent of commuter railroad employees have been trained on PTC and 70 percent have the necessary back-office control systems ready for operation.

The commuter railroads have acquired 88 percent of the radio spectrum required for PTC.

In a statement, APTA said that although PTC implementation progress has been steady, commuter railroads have faced “significant financial constraints and technical challenges” in implementing PTC.

Other challenges include diagnosing and resolving software issues, securing track access and achieving PTC interoperability with other railroads.

The cost of PTC installation is expected to exceed $4.1 billion.

Federal law requires railroads to implement PTC systems by Dec. 31. They can qualify for two-year extension if they meet certain requirements, such as installing all PTC hardware, acquiring needed spectrum and training employees.

Squires Extols Benefits of PTC

May 18, 2018

Positive train control is the backbone of technological advances that are coming to the railroad industry said Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires this week at a shippers’ conference.

James Squires

Speaking to the American Rail Shippers’ 2018 meeting in Chicago, Squires said technology and free trade will bring major changes to the rail industry.

“We are on the verge of an exciting new era of innovation,” Squires said. “PTC is a big new communications network we can use for a variety of purposes. We are only just beginning to discover the many uses of data collected through the PTC network.”

Squires also said that a big data wave is already rolling across the industry and it will result in automation that will evolve to reduce human error.“

Automation in transportation is perceived as controversial, yet it happened long ago in aviation. He said a railroad in Australia has already demonstrated the benefits of automation.

Facing a Dec. 31 deadline under federal law to install PTC and its components, Squires said NS has completed 78 percent of locomotive installations, 93 percent of wayside unit installations, 97 percent of radio tower installations, and 87 percent of employee training.

“We’re gonna get it done,” he said.

As for free trade, Squires said the United States must not turn away from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said creates jobs for American workers.

“NAFTA remains one of the most successful free trade agreements ever brokered by U.S. lawmakers,” Squires said, adding that international markets “must remain open for business.”

FRA Sees Progress in PTC Installation, but Not Interoperability

May 18, 2018

America’s Class 1 railroads and Amtrak continue to make good progress in installing and implementing positive train control, but the railroad industry as a whole has made very little progress in PTC interoperability.

The Federal Railroad Administration recently released a progress summary for the first quarter of 2018 that showed many commuter rail lines face a tall order in meeting a Dec. 31 PTC installation deadline.

Testifying before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said 12 of the 41 railroads that are required implement PTC may miss the deadline for equipment installation, or apply for an alternative schedule.

Interoperability refers to the ability of one railroad’s PTC system to communicate with other systems when more than one railroad operates on the same track.

The FRA has indicated that it will be closely watching interoperability progress during the remainder of the year.

BNSF leads Class I railroads in PTC installation with all locomotives and wayside hardware installed and all employees trained.

It also has 17 percent of its interoperability completed whereas no other major railroad has begun to implement interoperability capability.

CSX has 66 track segments operating with PTC and has finished PTC training for employees.

Amtrak has put PTC in operation on two-thirds of the route miles it owns on the Northeast Corridor and in Michigan. It has interoperability with two of 20 railroads.

“The majority of issues are among commuter railroads,” Batory told the Senate committee.

He explained that commuter railroads have lagged because of a demand crunch.

Although legislation requiring PTC was adopted in 2008, development of PTC systems came slowly and by 2014 16 railroads had never contacted PTC vendors.

Batory said turnover in leadership at commuter rail agencies also slowed progress toward meeting the PTC deadline.

“Sustained leadership committed to the 2008 and 2015 statutes is paramount, and that’s what we’ve seen among the Class I railroad community, as well as unique commuter agencies such as [Los Angeles-based] Metrolink and [Philadelphia-based] SEPTA.”

Both the Southern California Regional Rail Authority and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority reported full PTC compliance as of March 31.

FRA Has Grants for PTC Support

May 17, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration is taking applications for $250 million in grants to help fund installation of positive train control on freight, intercity passenger and commuter railroads.

Recipients of the grants may use them for back-office systems; wayside, communications and onboard hardware equipment; software; equipment installation; spectrum; any component, testing and training for the implementation of PTC systems; and interoperability.

Applications will be due by 45 days after a program notice is published in the Federal Register.

In the meantime, the agency said that railroads continue progress toward meeting a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline for PTC installation set by federal law.

During the first quarter of 2018 14 railroads reported they’ve installed 100 percent of the hardware necessary for PTC  as of March 31.

Six other railroads — Altamont Corridor Express, Central Florida Rail Corridor (Sunrail), Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail), Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC), MTA Metro-North Railroad and South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail) — increased their percentage of hardware installation by more than 10 percent.

However, passenger railroads have made less progress, with PTC in operation on just 25 percent of required route miles.

The FRA said that is up just 1 percent from the previous quarter.

Amtrak Holding Firm on PTC View

April 12, 2018

Amtrak is doubling down on an assertion made earlier this year to Congress by its CEO Richard Anderson that it will not operate on routes that are required to have positive train control but which fail to make the deadline to installing it.

Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, Stephen Gardner, told a House Appropriations Committee hearing that Amtrak still has not decided if it will use routes that are not required to have PTC.

Gardner said the passenger carrier continues to study whether it can safely operate on PTC-exempt routes, which tend to be on regional railroads.

He acknowledged during the hearing that Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief might be adversely affected by the PTC issue.

However, Gardner qualified his testimony by suggesting that Amtrak might use routes that receive an extension from the Federal Railroad Administration of the Dec. 31, 2018, PTC deadline that is mandated by federal law.

As did Anderson, Gardner said there will be segments of routes used by Amtrak over which the carrier won’t operate if a PTC waiver has not been obtained by the host railroad.

“ . . . We believe PTC is part of a modern passenger rail system and we want to see PTC levels of safety across our network. We’re going to be analyzing those areas where safety improvements can be made,” Gardner said.

When pressed by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-California) about the Southwest Chief, Gardner said Amtrak “will provide service on the portions of the route that have PTC, but there may be parts of our network where we believe PTC is required – if that route has high operating speeds – and we want to make sure we have a single level of safety across our network.”

Gardner said Amtrak route safety assessment will conclude this summer.

The Southwest Chief route is required to have PTC between Albuquerque and Lamy, New Mexico, where Amtrak shares tracks with Rail Runner commuter trains.

However, the route between Lamy and Trinidad, Colorado, is exempted. The former Santa Fe route used by the Chief across Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico has an automatic train stop system that dates from the 1920s.

It requires a locomotive engineer to acknowledge any restrictive signal indication or suffer a penalty brake application.

Gardner also took a shot at Amtrak’s host railroads for creating an “existential crisis” by delaying its trains through freight train interference.

He called for legislation allowing Amtrak to sue host railroads over failure to give passenger trains dispatching priority.

Asked why Amtrak is giving up special trains and restricting its carriage of private passenger cars, Gardner said the carrier is restricting the number of places that it operates to its core network.

He noted that some specials and charters have used routes not covered by scheduled Amtrak trains and that any additional revenue it made from those moves caused “a minimum amount of disruption and distraction away from our core business.”

He said going off network exposed Amtrak to new operating challenges and safety risks.

Gardner said Amtrak’s goal is to offer services on its current routes “where we can use equipment that we are confident in and the requirements on our end are manageable, not a distraction, and do not divert our core staff from the job of becoming fully PTC implemented, focusing on improving on-time performance, and providing great customer service.”

South Shore to Start PTC Testing

April 5, 2018

The South Shore commuter line in Indiana will begin live testing of its positive train control system next week.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which oversees the commuter service between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, said PTC testing will be conducted throughout its entire network.

South Shore trains are using Interoperable Train Management System software and hardware designed by Wabtec of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.

Last December, the South Shore told the Federal Railroad Administration that it had equipped just 19 of its 73 locomotives and cab cars with PTC equipment.

It also said at the time that it had not completed testing sufficient to qualify for an FRA extension beyond the federal Dec. 31, 2018, deadline for PTC installation.

FRA Provides PTC Installation Update

March 22, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week that positive train control is in operation on 56 percent of freight railroad route miles that are required to have it.

However, PTC is only in use on 24 percent of passenger railroads.

Fifteen railroads have completed installing the hardware for PTC operation while 11 have in place more than 80 percent of the needed equipment. All but three railroads have sufficient spectrum for their PTC needs.

FRA officials met in January and February with executives from the 41 railroads required to have PTC to evaluate the status of PTC installation on each.

“It is the railroads’ responsibility to meet the congressionally mandated PTC requirements,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory in a statement. “The FRA is committed to doing its part to ensure railroads and suppliers are working together to implement PTC systems.”

The FRA said its staff is meeting with PTC suppliers to learn more about their capacity to meet demand for railroads’ PTC implementation “in a timely manner.”