Posts Tagged ‘PTC exemptions’

FRA Reports Railroads Making PTC Progress

June 1, 2019

A recent report issued by the Federal Railroad Administration concluded that the nation’s railroads made significant progress in toward the goal of full implementation of positive train control in the first quarter of 2019.

The FRA said that during that period PTC systems were in operation on almost 48,050 of the nearly 58,000 route miles required to have it. That was a 3 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2018.

Field testing was conducted on an additional 341 route miles in early 2019.

Railroads are facing a Dec. 31, 2020, deadline to finish installing and implementing their PTC systems.

Forty-one railroads required by law to have PTC had either complied with the law by last Dec. 2018, by fully implementing a PTC system or demonstrating enough progress to qualify for FRA approval of an alternative schedule that allows them up to two additional years to finish fully implementing PTC systems on all their required main lines.

Four railroads of those railroads had fully installed PTC while the other 37 met or exceeded the six statutory criteria necessary to qualify for an extension.

FRA Head Meets With PTC Vendors

October 19, 2018

Federal Railroad Administration officials recently concluded a series of meetings with vendors selling positive train control equipment being acquired by eight railroads that the agency has labeled as “at risk” of failing to meet a federal PTC deadline.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said he conducted the meetings in order to assess the readiness of the vendors and the at risk railroads to meet a Dec. 31 deadline.

Federal law requires railroads handling passengers and hazardous materials to have a PTC system in place by the deadline. The law also spells out the level of progress that a carrier must have made in order to qualify for an extension of the deadline.

Batory would not comment on the readiness of the PTC vendors or at risk railroads to meet the statutory thresholds.

Although the FRA in statement did not name the at risk railroads, New Jersey Transit is known to be the largest among them.

“Railroads, PTC system suppliers, and other key stakeholders must seize the remaining fourth quarter with finely coordinated efforts in order to meet the statutory prerequisites of Dec. 31, 2018. This productive stream of communication between all PTC stakeholders with ongoing FRA involvement must continue,” Batory said in a statement.

Passenger Lags Freight on PTC Installation

October 8, 2018

A Government Accountability Office report found that many passenger railroads are close to completing equipment installation of positive train control systems but are lagging the rate of progress of freight railroads in testing those systems.

Of the 28 commuter railroads required to implement PTC, 19 have initiated field testing but just eight have started revenue-service demonstration.

Two-thirds of passenger railroads are more than 90 percent complete with equipment installation.

The testing involves several field tests of individual components, such as of each locomotive to verify if it meets functional requirements and field-integration.

Revenue service demonstrations are an advanced form of field testing in which a railroad operates PTC-equipped trains in regular service under specific conditions.

The GAO said Amtrak and 21 commuter railroads expect to seek an extension to the Dec. 31 federally mandated deadline for PTC implementation.

More than half of those railroads plan to apply to the Federal Railroad Administration for an extension using substitute criteria that is specified in federal law.

Batory Provides Upbeat PTC Report

October 5, 2018

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.

5 to 6 Railroads May Not Qualify for PTC Exemption

October 1, 2018

The number of railroads at risk of not qualifying for an extension of the deadline to implement positive train control has been whittled to five to six.

Federal Railroad Administration chief Ronald L. Batory gave that assessment during a conference held last week in suburban Chicago.

The number of at-risk railroads has fallen from nine that the FRA reported in late August. All of the at-risk railroads are passenger carriers.

The FRA’s next status report on PTC implementation is due in November.

Under federal law, 41 railroads are required to install a PTC system by Dec. 31 or have made enough progress to qualify for an extension of time.

The law established six criteria by which a railroad can qualify for an extension, but generally the FRA considers a carrier to be at risk of non-compliance if it has installed less than 90 percent of its PTC system hardware.

Batory emphasized that contrary to popular belief PTC is “not a safety system” but “a risk-reduction system” designed to overcome human error.

Amtrak Walks Back PTC ‘No Operation’ Pledge

September 17, 2018

Amtrak appears to have done an about face on an earlier vow to refuse to operate passenger trains on routes that lack an operating positive train control by Dec. 31.

During a hearing of a House committee, Amtrak Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek said the carrier will seek a deadline extension from the Federal Railroad Administration in order to operate all its trains.

Naparstek told the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials that Amtrak decided to seek the extension because of interoperability issues with other railroads that operate on Amtrak tracks and with railroads whose tracks Amtrak uses.

“When 2019 arrives, we will have our track, computer, training and locomotive PTC work complete and will be operating PTC across all of the tracks we control and across much of the host railroad network,” Naparstek said.

Naparstek said 222 of Amtrak’s 315 daily trains now operate with PTC on some or all of their routes. That figure is expected to rise to 283 by Dec. 31 when the railroad industry faces a federal deadline to implement PTC or qualify for an extension of up to two years.

Amtrak is studying how it might operate on rail lines that do not have PTC in place by next January.

Naparstek said the carrier’s goal is to continue to operate all its current routes.

“Exactly how we accomplish this will vary across our network, based on the specifics of each route,” he said. “But . . . we believe we will have strategies in place that will permit us to continue operations until operational PTC or PTC-equivalency is achieved for all our network.”

He describes the interoperability of PTC whereby the PTC equipment of one railroad works on another railroad’s routes, as a work in progress.

In a follow-up statement, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, “The testimony makes it clear Amtrak is planning to operate the current network in the coming fiscal year, with additional safety actions for some segments, as we strive for the goal of positive train control or an equivalent on all our routes.”

That suggests that Amtrak will not discontinue operating trains that use routes that lack a fully functioning PTC system.

Naperstek also said Amtrak is working with tenant railroads on the Northeast Corridor and other Amtrak-owned lines to ensure that they are able to maintain their operations.

“Our aim is to ensure that all of our tenants have an operational system as soon as possible,” he said. “We are mindful of the impacts that any disruption of commuter service may have on the regions we serve and the potential safety consequences that could follow.”

In progress report, Naperstek said that through Sept. 10, Amtrak had installed PTC systems on  88 of its locomotives required for revenue service.

Furthermore, 122 of 142 installations have been made on 114 state-owned locomotives and cab cars that Amtrak operates or maintains.

He also said that 53 units are being tested and are PTC operable; eight of 11 installation/track segments have been completed; 132 of 140 radio towers are fully installed and equipped; all employees required to be trained in PTC operations have been trained; 607 of 901 route-miles are in PTC operation, and 480 route-miles are in testing.

Naperstek’s testimony was in contrast to the remarks of Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson during a February House Railroad Subcommittee hearing at which Anderson said Amtrak would not operate trains on lines not equipped with fully operational PTC in 2019 if its host freight railroads failed to meet the Dec. 31 interim deadline for installation.

He also said that Amtrak would prohibit non-PTC-compliant equipment from operating on the lines it owns, primarily on the Northeast Corridor.

 

House Committee Warns About PTC Deadline

September 17, 2018

Members of a Congressional committee spent part of a hearing last week rattling their sabers about the implementation of positive train control, saying that railroads that failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline will face fines.

Forty railroads are required to meet the PTC deadline, which is specified by federal law. But the Federal Railroad Administration has said that nine railroads are at risk of missing the deadline or even qualifying for an extension.

“Patience is growing thin on PTC implementation,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Massachusetts, the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, said he had no sympathy for the commuter lines that were at greatest risk.

“I don’t think you’re going to find too many open minds on this side of the table,” if railroad officials offer excuses for not complying with the law, Capuano said.

“If people are not complying, you change the business calculation,” by forcing companies to factor in financial sanctions, said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Connecticut.

Committee members did, though, heap praise on railroads that are poised to meet the deadline and/or qualify for an extension of time to fully implement PTC.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said fining non-compliant railroads is a possibility, but said it would be one of many actions the FRA might take. The fines could be as much as $27,904 per day.

“I’d like not to have to use that tool. But if that’s the one you have to use in combination with everything else that we’ve invoked, I think we should do nothing less,” he said.

Batory said the FRA has begun enforcement actions against 13 railroads that had not met hardware installation deadlines set down at the end of 2017.

He said that it is important for the FRA to focus on a “concentrated, concise, collaborative communication” process to help expedite each railroad’s progress toward compliance.

APTA Reports Commuter Rail PTC Progress

August 16, 2018

The American Public Transportation Association said this week that commuter railroads are making substantial progress toward the installation and implementation of positive train control systems.

That progress comes despite technical and financial constraints, APTA said in a news release.

As of June 30, the commuter-rail industry has achieved the following:

• 91 percent of spectrum has been acquired;

• 85 percent of 13,698 pieces of onboard equipment have been installed on locomotives and cab cars;

• 79 percent of 14,083 wayside installations have been completed;

• 78 percent of back office control systems are ready for operation;

• 74 percent of 14,847 employees have been trained in PTC; and

• 34 percent of commuter railroads are in testing, revenue service demonstration, or are operating their trains with PTC.

APTA said not all U.S. commuter railroads required to implement PTC will have their systems in service by a Dec. 31 deadline set by federal law.

Those that will not are focused on meeting certain milestones necessary to qualify for a two-year extension.

The Dec. 31 deadline requires railroads to have installed all PTC hardware; acquired all necessary spectrum; completed employee training; initiated testing on at least one territory; and submitted a plan and schedule to the U.S. secretary of transportation for implementing a PTC system.

If granted an extension, railroads must implement PTC no later than Dec. 31, 2020.

Congressmen Protest PTC Exemption

June 23, 2018

The decision by the Federal Railroad Administration to grant a positive train control exemption to a commuter operation in Nashville, Tennessee, has drawn criticism from some members of Congress.

The FRA gave the exemption to the Nashville Regional Transit Authority for its 32-mile Music City Star commuter line.

The exemption allows the commuter railroad and its host railroad, the Nashville & Eastern, to dispense with implementing PTC.

Reportedly, the two qualified for the exemption by reducing service.

That prompted four members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees to write to the FRA to warn it that exemptions were not included in the 2008 law that required PTC implementation.

Exemption authority was included in the FRA’s regulations governing PTC.

“We continue to believe the exemptions provided in the regulations are overly broad — enabling intercity passenger, commuter, and freight railroads to avoid PTC implementation . . .,” the letter states.

The letter also expressed a fear that the exemption granted in Nashville could provide a template for other PTC exemption requests.

“We strongly urge FRA to revise its regulations to tighten PTC exemptions and focus on ways to help railroads comply with the law rather than circumvent it through regulatory carve outs,” the letter states.

It is signed by Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, the ranking member on the transportation committee; Michael Capuano, D-Massachusetts, ranking member on the railroad subcommittee; and Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper, both Tennessee Democrats.

An FRA spokesman declined comment on the letter, but said the agency plans to give a response to the transportation committee.

It is not clear what services have been reduced. RTA continues to operate three morning and three afternoon trains between Nashville and Lebanon, Tennessee.