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APTA: Commuter railroads acquire all radio spectrum for PTC

The North County Transit District's Coaster commuter-rail system in Oceanside, California, is among railroads that aim to fully implement PTC by year's end.
Photo – North County Transit District


U.S. commuter railroads have acquired all the radio spectrum needed to implement positive train control (PTC), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced yesterday.

APTA made the announcement in its third-quarter PTC report, which also found that 96 percent of nearly 17,000 wayside equipment installations have been completed.

As far as onboard PTC hardware, commuter railroads have installed 94 percent of the 13,400 pieces of equipment needed on locomotives and cab cars. Eighty-nine percent of back office systems are ready for operation, while 85 percent of more than 13,500 employees have been trained on PTC.

Of the 28 commuter railroads required to roll out PTC, 19 are in PTC operation, in revenue service demonstration or are awaiting approval from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to begin testing, according to APTA.

Under federal law, freight and passenger railroads have until Dec. 31 to implement the technology or apply to the FRA for an extension until 2020's end. To qualify for an extension, railroads must meet certain requirements, including the installation of all PTC hardware and acquisition of all radio spectrum.

Earlier this year, Federal Railroad Administrator Ronald Batory told a congressional panel that nine passenger railroads have been determined to be at risk of not qualifying for an extension to implement PTC. But during APTA's conference call yesterday, the APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas said that number has shrunk to five.

All nine "at-risk" railroads are expected to meet the mark to qualify for an extension by year's end, Skoutelas said.

APTA's conference call included input from leaders at commuter-rail agencies in Philadelphia, Chicago and Oceanside, California. Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski noted that his railroad has had to put other capital needs on pause to roll out PTC, which is expected to cost $400 million.

In September, Metra announced it finished installing PTC components on all its trains and all communications and signal systems.

All told, PTC is expected to cost commuter railroads $4.1 billion to implement. Rolling out the technology has been difficult for commuter railroads due to a limited number of PTC qualified vendors, which are in demand by both freight and passenger railroads, Skoutelas said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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