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Rail News: Positive Train Control

FCC actions have slowed pace of PTC implementation, AAR says

Because of a year-long moratorium on installing 20,000 communication antennas imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) followed by a lengthy federal approval process mandated by the agency, U.S. freight railroads now are projected to install positive train control (PTC) on 20 percent of the required network by 2015's end instead of the previously projected 40 percent, according to a new report issued by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

The FCC moratorium — put in place until the antennas are assessed through the commission's environmental and historical evaluation process — has seriously delayed the implementation of interoperable PTC nationwide, the report states.

“Everyone in the industry is greatly frustrated at the inability to move forward and do what we need to do to advance PTC installation," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a press release. "It's been two steps forward, three steps back for months, and we simply don’t have the certainty we need to move ahead and get PTC tested, fully functioning, certified and ready to go."

It has yet to be determined how the thousands of antennas will be reviewed, he said. The majority of the antennas at issue are between 10- and 60-feet tall, and roughly 97 percent are located on railroad property, Hamberger added.

The freight rail industry is expected to install PTC on approximately 60,000 miles of mainline track and has spent approximately $4 billion to date implementing the automatic braking system mandated by Congress, according to the AAR. Despite numerous challenges, railroads so far have installed or partially installed PTC equipment on 50 percent of the required locomotives, deployed one-third of the necessary wayside units, replaced half of the signals needed for implementation and mapped most of the track that will be equipped with PTC, AAR data shows.

For more information on railroads' ongoing PTC implementation efforts, follow this link to read an article that appears in Progressive Railroading's April issue.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/17/2014