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Rail News: Positive Train Control

AAR reiterates freight-rail industry's commitment to PTC


The freight railroad industry is making "measurable strides" toward implementing positive train control (PTC) and is "fully committed" to nationwide interoperability of the safety system, Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger said in response to yesterday's Senate hearing on PTC.

In reaction to last month's fatal Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation yesterday held a hearing titled, "Passenger Rail Safety: Accident Prevention and On-Going Efforts to Implement Train Control Technology." Public attention to PTC has been raised since the National Transportation Safety Board said that the Amtrak accident likely would not have happened if PTC had been implemented where the train derailed.

The AAR has maintained that it's impossible for the industry meet the mandated end-of-2015 deadline for a fully functioning PTC system "given the sheer size and scope of the order," Hamberger said in a prepared statement.

"Freight railroads have been moving forward with PTC for years and remain 100 percent committed to ensuring this complex 'system of systems' gets safely installed and thoroughly vetted and tested," he said. "Our railroads have 62,000 miles to equip with PTC and getting that safely completed is a top priority."

According to the AAR's most recent PTC progress report to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA):
• more than 11,000 railroad route miles will be equipped with PTC;
• about 9,000 locomotives will be PTC ready;
• 76 percent of the 34,000 required wayside units will be installed;
• 67 percent of base station radios will be in place; and
• 32,446 of 95,971 railroad employees will be trained on the technology.

"Reaching deadlines is important, but even more important is that when PTC is turned on it is fully operational and enhancing safety," said Hamberger, who noted freight railroads have already invested about $5.7 billion in private capital into PTC and expect to spend billions more by the time it is fully implemented.

He added that the industry has been warning policymakers for years that the deadline was unachievable, something that has been acknowledged by former and current FRA officials. Freight railroads have indicated that they will require until 2018 to deploy all PTC equipment and outfit the fleet, followed by two years of testing and validation to ensure the system is working nationwide.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/11/2015