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Rail News: Positive Train Control

Chao calls on railroads to speed up PTC implementation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
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U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is urging Class Is, intercity passenger railroads and state and local transit agencies to implement positive train control (PTC) by the congressional deadline of Dec. 31.

In letters to railroad executives, Chao said the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is concerned that many of the nation's railroads are behind in implementing the federally mandated PTC technology by the Dec. 31 deadline.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will work with the railroads "to help create an increased level of urgency to underscore the imperative of meeting existing timeline expectations for rolling out this critical rail safety technology," Chao wrote.

Dated Dec. 27, 2017, the letter follows last month's fatal Amtrak Cascades derailment in DuPont, Washington. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators have said the train was moving about 80 mph on a 30 mph area of track when the accident occurred. PTC was not operational on the route, according to the NTSB.

The train was on its inaugural run of service between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, when it derailed. Three people died and dozens of others were injured.

Last week, U.S. senators representing Washington, Oregon and other states called on Chao to hold railroads "accountable" when they fail to implement PTC and other safety measures.

Congress mandated PTC in railway safety legislation passed in 2008. Initially, the legislation called for PTC to be implemented by the end of 2015. However, Congress extended the deadline to the end of 2018 or, under certain circumstances, the end of 2020.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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