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Rail News: Positive Train Control

Amtrak to seek PTC extension, will operate current routes after Jan. 1


Amtrak will seek a deadline extension from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to complete positive train control (PTC) implementation on all its railroad operations, an Amtrak executive told a congressional committee yesterday.

Railroads required by federal law to implement PTC have until Dec. 31 to complete the process, unless they qualify for an extension from the FRA of up to two years.

Amtrak Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek yesterday told the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials that the national intercity passenger railroad will require an extension because of "interoperability" issues with other railroads that operate on Amtrak tracks and with railroads whose tracks Amtrak uses.

"When 2019 arrives, we will have our track, computer, training and locomotive PTC work complete and will be operating PTC across all of the tracks we control and across much of the host railroad network," Naparstek told the subcommittee, which called the hearing to receive a PTC progress report.

Currently, 222 of Amtrak's 315 daily trains operate with PTC along some or all of their routes. By Jan. 1, Amtrak anticipates that number will climb to 283, or 90 percent of those routes, Naparstek said in his written testimony.

"Given the difficulty of completing testing with so many freight and commuter partners and the potential for some limited technical issues to arise during testing of the sort that often accompany the initial operation of any complex technology, Amtrak will be required to submit an application to the FRA for an alternative schedule to enable us to continue operating while we finalize testing of our system and the systems of our hosts and tenants," he said.

The interoperability of PTC systems between railroads remains a "work in progress," Naparstek added.

Amtrak is conducting a risk analysis and mitigation plan for operations on host and tenant railroads that may also have an alternative schedule for PTC implementation in place after Jan. 1.

Although that plan is underway, Amtrak's goal is to continue to operate all its current routes after the first of the year, Naparstek said.

"Exactly how we accomplish this will vary across our network, based on the specifics of each route," he said. "But ... we believe we will have strategies in place that will permit  us to continue operations until operational PTC or PTC-equivalency is achieved for all our network."

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