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Rail News: Positive Train Control

Metra PTC project prompts Rock Island schedule changes

Before each run, train crews must initialize the PTC system — a process that's expected to take six minutes for each trip.
Photo – Metra


Metra yesterday released a proposed revision of its Rock Island Line schedule to accommodate service changes related to positive train control (PTC) implementation.

With PTC in place, train crews must initialize the system before each individual run. The process includes compiling information about the size and makeup of the train, along with any other details about route conditions that could affect train operations.

The initialization process is expected to take about six minutes for each trip, Metra officials said in a news release.

In addition, "flipping" trains — the process of turning trains around at their downtown and suburban terminals — will take longer because of PTC. To flip a train, the engineer must move from the cab car to the locomotive, or vice versa, and the crew must clear the train, perform a brake test and conduct a job briefing, according to Metra.

With the added task of initializing the PTC system, these flips are expected to take more than 10 minutes for each trip.

Metra is responsible for creating the back office system and installing the equipment on its trains and along the tracks of the five routes it controls. The freight railroads that own the other lines — BNSF Railway Co., Union Pacific Railroad and CN — are responsible for trackside equipment and back offices along those routes.

PTC is fully operational on the BNSF Line, and UP expects to have PTC operational on its line sometime this year. PTC will begin operating on other Metra lines in 2019 and 2020.

"One of the key features of PTC – and one of its biggest challenges – is that PTC systems must be interoperable between railroads," Metra officials said. "This means that Metra's onboard equipment must be able to seamlessly communicate not only with Metra's trackside and back office components, but with the freight railroads’ trackside and back office components, and vice versa."

To learn about other railroads' PTC challenges as the Dec. 31 implementation deadline looms, read this feature from Progressive Railroading's October issue.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/16/2018