Posts Tagged ‘PTC deadline’

Chao Prods Railroads to Finish PTC Work

January 4, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation is leaning on railroads to finish installation and implementation of positive train control by the end of the year.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao wrote to the chiefs of Class Is, intercity passenger railroads and state and local transit agencies to prod them into meeting the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline set by federal law.

Chao expressed concern that many railroads are behind schedule in implementing PTC.

She said the Federal Railroad Administration will work with railroads “to help create an increased level of urgency to underscore the imperative of meeting existing timeline expectations for rolling out this critical rail safety technology.”

In 2008 Congress adopted legislation requiring PTC with a deadline of Dec. 31, 2015. That deadline later was moved to the end of 2018 although in certain circumstances the deadline could be the end of 2020.

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Crystal Ball Look at 2018 and Railroads

January 3, 2018

With a new year upon us, it’s time to look ahead to what 2018 might bring in the railroad industry. Such predictions are fraught with peril given that unexpected developments can occur at any time that dramatically changes the trajectory of the industry or its individual components.

A year ago at this time we thought E. Hunter Harrison was living out his days as CEO of Canadian Pacific. Few knew that he was plotting with a hedge fund to take over CSX.

Even fewer knew that Harrison was in his final days of overseeing any railroad and would die before the year ended.

With that in mind I press ahead in reviewing four stories to watch in 2018.

What now for CSX? The patriarch of precision scheduled railroading left before his model could be fully implemented.

Look for CSX to continue the PSR model under new CEO James M. Foote, although with some modifications.

Much of the early months of 2018 will see Foote finding his way at CSX while assuring investors that he was a wise choice to replace Harrison.

Industry analysts have pointed out that Foote is thin in operating experience. Much of his industry time has been spent in marketing and sales.

That could turn out to be a good thing for CSX because customer relations was not Harrison’s strong suit. He was an old school operating man who wanted to dictate terms to shippers not the other way around.

Look for CSX to appoint an operations vice president so that Foote can focus on what he knows best.

Both Canadian National and CP have done quite well post-Harrison. Will the same be true for CSX? Perhaps, but if that is the case it will be due to Harrison having laid the foundation not from having built the house as was the case at CN and CP.

What now for Amtrak? Richard Anderson is firmly in control of the nation’s rail passenger carrier with Charles “Wick” Moorman having retired.

Anderson, the former CEO at Delta Air Lines, has hired a supporting team that includes former airline executives. It remains to be seen what that means.

These airline executives cut their teeth during the airline deregulation era when airlines learned ways to squeeze every last dollar out of passengers through such things as baggage fees and seat assignment fees, among others.

Remember the last time that an airline served you a not meal in coach as part of your fare? Yeah, it’s been a while.

Anderson won’t necessarily remake Amtrak in that model but look for him to move in that direction.

The name of the game will be maximizing revenue yield – something Amtrak has already been doing – as the carrier seeks to recover even more of its expenses from the fare box.

Anderson will have his hands full this year attending to matters that grabbed a disproportionate number of headlines in 2017. This includes the rebuilding of New York’s Penn Station and dealing with the aftermath of the derailment of a Cascades Service train in Washington State.

Much of the latter has focused on the fact that positive train control was not yet in operation on the route. Questions are being raised about the adequacy of training of Amtrak operating employees and the railroad’s safety culture.

These matters will continue to attract attention in 2018 and take up much of Anderson’s time.

Rail passenger advocates in places such as Ohio will continue to be disappointed in Amtrak in 2018. But that is nothing new.

Little, if any, progress will be made in terms of route expansion, new equipment for long-distance trains or expanding the frequency of such tri-weekly services as the Chicago-Washington Cardinal.

Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is that the aging Superliners will get a new interior look starting later in the year.

Will Railroads Make the PTC Deadline? The last day of 2018 is the deadline for the railroad industry to implement positive train control systems on routes that handle passengers and/or carry hazardous cargo. The deadline has been moved once already.

The Federal Railroad Administration has warned that waivers won’t be issued again, but that was during a different administration.

The Trump administration might be far more sympathetic to railroad industry pleas for a little more time due to the expense and complexity of PTC systems.

Some railroads will make the deadline, but others are going to be cutting it close.

Will the Trump Infrastructure Plan See the Light of Day? Candidate Donald Trump liked to talk about his big plans to revamp the nation’s infrastructure. President Donald Trump has barely mentioned it other than to pay it lip service on occasion.

The administration has been tight lipped about the scope of the plan other than a few broad details, such as $200 billion in federal funds will be used to leverage $1 trillion worth of infrastructure improvements.

Supposedly, the infrastructure plan was being held in abeyance until Congress passed a tax bill, which it did in late December.

In theory, an infrastructure improvement plan should have bi-partisan support. But in a hyper partisan environment during a midterm election year bi-partisan support might be hard to come by. Political hardball will be the rule.

There remains the question of how much the railroad industry would benefit from an infrastructure plan once or even if it is implemented. Few rail infrastructure plans come with a private developer other than than the railroad itself to provide matching funds.

Passenger rail should be a prime beneficiary of an infrastructure plan, but given the current political climate it might find little to feed on except for a few token crumbs that will be eaten by Northeast Corridor infrastructure needs, of which there are many.

Freight railroads might fare a little better in getting funds for some projects, e.g., enlarging tunnels or replacing bridges that they agree to help fund.

But don’t be surprised if the infrastructure plan winds up benefiting highways and even some areas that only a strained definition of infrastructure would incorporate, e.g., a veteran’s hospital. It will hinge on how the terms of the plan are written.

A lot of hungry government agencies and private companies are going to be looking for a slice of the infrastructure pie and might provide tortuous explanations as to how their project constitutes infrastructure.

I’m reminded of that famous response from bank robber Willie Sutton in the Saturday Evening Post as to why he robbed banks: “I rob banks because that’s where the money is.”

The infrastructure plan might make available money not available otherwise so there are going to be a lot of hand out seeking a part of it.

Conservatives in Congress will not necessarily offer automatic support for an infrastructure plan, which they might fame as a stimulus plan. That would remind them too much of something they despised during the early years of the Obama administration.

And conservatives absolutely, positively dislike spending federal money on passenger rail. They are not all that more supportive of public transportation even when it uses rubber tires on asphalt and concrete surfaces.

PTC Progress Has Been Uneven

December 28, 2017

Less than a quarter of passenger rail lines have positive train control systems in operation on the track that they own, the Federal Railroad Administration has reported.

The FRA said freight railroads have implanted PTC on 45 percent of their route miles that are required to have it.

The figures show progress through Sept. 30. The FRA has given conditional certification to eight of 37 railroads required to implement PTC by a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline. There are 41 railroads that must meet that deadline.

The FRA report showed that 68 percent of freight and 50 percent of passenger locomotive fleets have PTC controls. It also showed that 82 percent of freight and 66 percent of passenger railroad employees have received PTC training.

Among freight railroads, BNSF has made the most progress while among transit systems the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is nearly ready.

A handful of railroads have reported making little to no progress in installing and implementing PTC.

DOT Inspector General to Review PTC Progress

July 25, 2017

At the urging of a South Dakota senator, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation will review how railroads in the United States are implementing positive train control.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, asked for the review out of concern that freight and passenger railroads are not moving fast enough toward meeting a 2018 deadline.

The review will consider how railroads are using federal funds to install PTC, which can stop or slow trains that are speeding.

At present, PTC is in operation on 27 percent of freight-rail route miles and 23 percent of passenger-rail route miles.

The technology was to have been installed by the end of 2015, but at the prodding of the railroad industry Congress reset the deadline to the end of 2018.

The industry said it was struggling to meet the original deadline due to the cost of implementing the technology.

PTC Grants Awarded to Passenger Rail Projects

June 2, 2017

Grants to help commuter and intercity passenger railroads install positive train control systems were awarded this week for 17 projects in 13 states.

The funding was awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Transit Administration and will help the railroads to meet a federal Dec. 31, 2018, deadline to install PTC.

The agencies said they received 27 eligible applications requesting $455 million, which was more than double the funds authorized by Congress.

The FRA was responsible for selecting the grant recipients with the FTA awarding the funds.

Authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, the grants will be used to install PTC technology, including back office systems and wayside, communications, and onboard hardware equipment associated with railroads’ PTC systems.

None of the grant recipients are located in Ohio. Projects in nearby states included:

•  $18.87 million to the Illinois Department of Transportation to complete the design, delivery, installation and testing of a fully integrated I-ETMS PTC system on two routes for Amtrak’s  use on 14.7 route miles of Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis right-of-way in St. Louis on the Illinois and Missouri banks of the Mississippi River.
• $20.2 million to Metra in Chicago for three subprojects on Metra’s Commuter Rail Division to implement wayside PTC signals, reconfigure signals, and upgrade an existing PTC automatic block signaling systems on the railroad’s Milwaukee District West and North lines in Chicago.
•  $12.02 million to the Missouri Department of Transportation to design, install, and test a fully integrated and functional I-ETMS PTC system over 8.5 route miles of Kansas City Terminal Railway right-of-way where Amtrak operates in the Kansas City area.
• $33.75 million to the New York State Department of Transportation to implement the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) PTC system on the Amtrak-controlled section of the Empire Corridor Hudson Line.
• $5.8 million to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority to install SEPTA’s ACSES II PTC system along a 3-mile portion of restored Regional Rail service from Elwyn to Wawa, and deploy onboard survey map software that contains the physical characteristics of the railroad and dictates train-operating speeds throughout SEPTA’s rail network.

FRA Reports PTC Progress

March 20, 2017

A Federal Railroad Administration report released last week said that positive train control has been installed and is active on 16 percent of freight railroads and 24 percent of passenger railroads.

That is an increase from 16 percent on freight railroads and 23 percent of passenger railroads in the third quarter of 2016.

The FRA said that 41 percent of passenger railroad locomotives are fully equipped with PTC technology, compared with 29 percent in the third quarter.

The percentage of freight railroad locomotives equipped with PTC rose to 42 percent compared with 38 percent in the third quarter of 2016.

The railroad industry faces a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline to install and implement PTC.

Commuter Rails 23% PTC Compliant

February 23, 2017

The American Public Transportation Association said this week that U.S. commuter railroads are on schedule to meet the December 2018 deadline for implementing positive train control systems.

APTAAPTA said that at the end of 2016 that PTC had been installed on 3,150 route miles (23 percent) of commuter-rail track.

Last November APTA said 22 percent of the nation’s commuter railroad track had PTC.

Thirty percent of the locomotive and cab cars of commuter railroads had received a PTC installation and 70 percent of the radio spectrum needed for PTC had been acquired.

In a news release, APTA said that funding remains a critical concern for commuter-rail agencies because PTC installations are expected to cost $3.5 billion.

APTA said that although Congress has authorized $199 million for PTC implementation it hasn’t appropriated the funds.

FRA Says PTC Progress is Uneven

November 29, 2016

Progress toward the implementation of positive train control has been uneven, the Federal Railroad Administration said in a report based on third quarter 2016 information submitted by railroads.

FRAThe FRA said PTC is active on 12 percent of freight railroad lines, an increase from 9 percent in the second quarter.

Passenger railroads increased their percentage to 23 percent this quarter compared to 22 percent last quarter.

In a news release, the FRA said the greatest progress has occurred on the West Coast. East Coast railroads, other than SEPTA and Amtrak, have remained relatively stagnant.

APTA Says Commuter Railroads on Schedule to Meet PTC Deadline in Late 2018

November 17, 2016

The American Public Transportation Association said that commuter railroads are on schedule to meet the federally-mandated 2018 deadline to implement positive train control.

aptaAPTA said that 22 percent of the 3,150 route miles of commuter rail in the country are in service with the technology or are in full PTC demonstration and awaiting Federal Railroad Administration approval.

An APTA survey found that 27 percent of the 3,400 locomotives and cab cars have been equipped with PTC hardware, while 70 percent of the required radio spectrum has been acquired.

The railroad industry faces a deadline of the end of 2018 to install PTC on lines that handle passenger service and hazardous freight.

In a news release, APTA said that funding for PTC remains a critical concern.

PTC implementation is expected to cost the commuter-rail industry more than $3.5 billion, including more than $16 million in spectrum acquisition and $100 million annually in additional maintenance costs.

Through October, commuter railroads had spent more than $1.5 billion on the technology.

South Shore Says it Will Meet PTC Deadline

October 26, 2016

The South Shore commuter line expects to complete the installation of positive train control within two years.

South Shore logoPassenger railroads are facing a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline to have PTC installed and operational. The Federal Railroad Administration has said that deadline won’t be pushed back again as it was last year.

“Our intention is to meet that deadline,” said South Shore President Michael Noland.

Noland said the South Shore, which operates between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, has borrowed $100 million to pay for PTC and will be paying off that debt for the next 20 years.

About $80 million of that bond issue is for a contract with Parsons Transportation Group, which also will be installing PTC on Metra trains in Chicago.

The South Shore said it will begin installing PTC equipment in its 72 power cars in an addition that it is building at its Michigan City shops.