Posts Tagged ‘PTC implementation’

NTSB Checks Off 3 PTC Recommendations

January 16, 2021

With the nation’s railroads having met a late 2020 deadline to install and begin using positive train control systems, the National Transportation Safety Board has checked three key PTC safety requirements off its to do list.

Those recommendations to Canadian National, CSX and Chicago commuter carrier Metra were related to equipping their trains with a PTC system.

In a news release, the NTSB said its recommendations to those railroads will be classified as “closed — acceptable action.”

The NTSB has long made installation of PTC one of its top priorities and it was shown on its 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements.

The NTSB had recommended that CSX install a PTC system after a February 1996, collision between Amtrak and Maryland Rail Commuter passenger trains operating on CSX tracks near Silver Spring, Maryland, that left three crew members and eight passengers dead..

The Metra recommendation followed an October 2003 derailment that injured 47 and occurred as a train traveled 68 mph in a 10 mph zone.

The CN recommendation followed a head-on collision in July 2004 at Anding, Mississippi, that left four crew members dead.

“I’ve seen up close the devastation and heartbreak a rail catastrophe brings,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “We will silently mark our success with every train crash prevented, every life saved by this technology.”

GAO Says RRs Optimistic About Meeting PTC Deadline

May 5, 2020

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.

PTC Operating on 98.5% of Class 1 Route Miles

January 31, 2020

At the end of 2019 positive train control was in operation on 98.5 percent of the required Class I railroad route miles the Association of American Railroads said this week.

PTC is in operation across 53,001 miles of 53,676 miles of PTC-required track.

In a news release, AAR said the Class 1 carriers are posed to meet the federally mandated deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, for full PTC implementation, with several railroads already operating it across their entire required PTC footprint.

AAR said the remaining Class 1 carriers continue to test their PTC systems to ensure they are fully interoperable and work seamlessly across operations.

Class 1 railroads have spent $11.47 billion on PTC development, installation and implementation.

This has included the installation of wayside, back office and locomotive hardware.

AAR said all carriers have all spectrum in place and had completed all necessary employee training as of the end of 2018.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires railroads to implement PTC to prevent four major types of train accidents: Train-to-train collisions; derailments caused by excessive speed; unauthorized incursions by trains into sections of track where maintenance activity is taking place; and movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.

GAO Report Cites PTC Interoperability Issues

August 6, 2019

A Government Accountability Office report concludes that although Amtrak, commuter and freight railroads are making progress in implementing positive train control systems, significant work remains to be done to achieve interoperability among the railroad’ individual PTC systems.

The report said that as of March 31, 11 of the 31 host railroads that must have interoperable PTC systems reported that they had achieved interoperability with at least one of their tenant railroads.

Thirty-eight of the 227 host-tenant relationships that require interoperability have been completed (17 percent), the Federal Railroad Administration told the GAO.

The GAO said most railroads said that vendor and software issues were “major” or “moderate” challenges for PTC implementation.

More than half of the railroads said interoperability was a “major” or “moderate challenge,” and can be complicated by software issues and coordinating host and tenant schedules

As an example of those issues, the report said one railroad reported that certain software functionality still had to be developed, tested and implemented to address reliability issues and facilitate interoperability.

The FRA concurred with a GAO recommendation that the FRA take steps to communicate information to railroads and use a risk-based approach to ranks priorities of agency resources and workload.

FRA Reports Continued Progress in PTC Implementation

August 2, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration reported this week that positive train control is in place on nearly 90 percent of the route miles subject to the federal mandate as of June.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory told a Senate committee that despite that progress there remains “significant work” to be done to fully implement PTC the end of 2020.

“Nonetheless, railroads must still complete significant work to full implement their PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2020, especially with respect to activating PTC systems on the remaining required main lines and achieving the necessary interoperability with their tenant railroads,” Batory said in his prepared statement.

Through the end of June PTC was in operation on 87 percent of the 58,000 route miles subject to the federal PTC mandate, based on preliminary reports railroads provide the FRA.

Batory told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that is a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

PTC systems are being tested in revenue service demonstration on at least 718 route miles.

Eleven freight railroads, 30 commuter railroads and Amtrak are subject to the PTC mandate.

Among the highlights of the latest PTC report are:

• Class I railroads report that PTC is in operation on 91 percent of their required main lines, which represented a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

• Host commuter railroads have PTC in revenue service on 443 route miles and in RSD testing on 718 route miles, which represented 37 percent of their 3,111 PTC-required route miles and a 12 percent increase since the first quarter.

• Amtrak, as a host railroad on and near the Northeast Corridor and other parts of the country, reported 899 of its 900 required route miles are governed by PTC. Operations are governed by PTC on 84 percent of route miles where Amtrak operates as a tenant on other railroads’ PTC-equipped main lines.

• Six short line or terminal railroads must implement PTC on their own main lines that provide or host regularly scheduled intercity or commuter passenger rail service. One of those six has been operating its FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system in revenue service since 2018, while the other five are conducting FRA-approved field testing of their PTC systems on the general rail network. They expect to begin RSD during the third quarter.

• Batory said host railroads reported 17 percent of tenant railroads that operate on their PTC-required main lines had achieved interoperability as of March 31.

• Host railroads also reported 33 percent of their applicable tenant railroads were installing PTC hardware and 38 percent had advanced to interoperability testing as of March 31.

“The FRA is currently directing its focus and resources to the PTC-mandated main lines that have a high concentration of host railroads and tenant railroads, including commuter railroads with significant remaining work, such as the PTC-mandated main lines in the Northeast, Chicago area, Florida and Texas,” Batory said.

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.

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.

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.

FRA Hosts PTC Session

July 18, 2018

The FRA recently hosted a symposium on positive train control interoperability that was attended by representatives of 41 railroads.

The event focused on best practices for PTC system field and interoperability testing.

“Interoperability is an important milestone for all railroads working to complete PTC implementation,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory in a statement. “This symposium is to institute clarity on any and all questions associated with implementing PTC interoperability as set forth in the governing regulations.”

FRA regulations require a PTC system to be interoperable, which means that the locomotives of any host railroad and tenant railroad operating on the same main line will communicate with and respond to that PTC system, including uninterrupted movements over property boundaries.