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Rail News: Positive Train Control

APTA: Commuter railroads making progress on PTC

The commuter railroad industry's cost to implement PTC will exceed $4.1 billion, said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas.
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Despite facing technical and financial constraints, the commuter-rail industry is making "substantial progress" toward installing and implementing positive train control (PTC), American Public Transportation Association (APTA) officials said during a press conference held yesterday.

The industry's progress reflects its commitment to safety and implementing PTC by the statutory deadline, said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas.

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.

Not all U.S. commuter railroads required to implement PTC will have their systems up and running by the federal Dec. 31 deadline. Those that will not are focused on meeting certain "milestones" necessary to qualify for a two-year extension, officials said.

By Dec. 31, commuter railroads must 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.

After that, commuter railroads must implement PTC no later than Dec. 31, 2020.

Metra is one of those commuter railroads that will not have its PTC system entirely completed by Dec. 31.

"Implementing PTC in Chicago's dense and busy railroad network has been very challenging, but Metra is right where we said we'd be in terms of finishing the job," said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. "Working with our freight partners, we expect to have PTC implemented or in revenue service demonstration on six of our 11 lines by the end of 2018, and to complete the job by 2020."

At a time when the national transit state-of-good-repair backlog stands at an estimated $90 billion, the commuter railroad industry's cost to implement PTC will exceed $4.1 billion, said Skoutelas.

Since Congress mandated PTC, the federal government has awarded $272 million in PTC grants. Additionally, another $250 million was made available in May 2018. The PTC requirement has resulted in railroads postponing certain state-of-good repair projects, APTA officials said.

Still, PTC is a "critical commuter-rail safety initiative for our customers and employees" said Jeffrey Knueppel, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

SEPTA has worked with Amtrak, freight-rail partners and third-party contractors to address the technical and interoperability challenges of PTC. SEPTA trains on all 13 of its Regional Rail lines have been equipped and operating with PTC since May, said Knueppel said.

SEPTA has spent about $370 million to implement PTC. The final piece left to be completed in its PTC initiative is establishing interoperability with Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX. That phase is scheduled to be completed this year, Knueppel said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/15/2018