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Rail News: Positive Train Control

FRA: Eight railroads at risk of missing PTC deadline

“The vast majority of railroads mandated to deploy and operate interoperable PTC systems have shown significant progress,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory.
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday released a fourth-quarter 2019 status report on railroads' progress in implementing positive train control (PTC) systems as required by Congress.

According to the FRA, the following eight host railroads are at risk of not fully implementing a PTC system on all federally mandated mainlines by the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline: Alaska Railroad Corp., the Belt Railway Co. of Chicago, Florida East Coast Railway (including its tenant railroad, Brightline/Virgin Trains USA), Kansas City Terminal Railway, New Jersey Transit, New Mexico Rail Runner Express, Metra and TEXRail.

To evaluate the risk of noncompliance, the FRA considers the following factors in addition to the railroads' own status reports: the percentage of mandated route miles currently governed by a PTC system, including revenue service demonstration (RSD); any unresolved technical issue in implementing a compliant PTC system; the percentage of a host railroad’s tenant railroads that have achieved interoperability, as required; and a host railroad’s expected date to submit its PTC Safety Plan to FRA, as required to obtain PTC system certification.

The FRA's PTC status report also found that of the 42 railroads required to implement the technology, most are operating their systems in revenue service or in advanced field-testing or RSD, FRA officials said in a press release.

As of Dec. 31, 2019, PTC systems were in RSD or in operation on 55,601 route miles, or 96.3 percent of the nearly 58,000 route miles subject to the federal mandate.

Specifically, as of 2019's end, PTC systems were governing operations on nearly all Class Is' and Amtrak's mandated lines, or 98.7 percent and 99.8 percent, respectively.

FRA officials said "significant work" remains on commuter railroads PTC systems, as 54.7 percent of commuter railroads' required route miles were PTC-governed as of Dec. 31, 2019, versus 41.9 percent in the third-quarter 2019.  Earlier this week, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) provided additional details on commuter railroads' PTC status.

Interoperability has been achieved in 38 percent of the 22 applicable host-tenant railroad relationships as of Dec. 31, a 13 percent increase since Sept. 30, 2019, FRA officials said.

The agency remains committed to assisting railroads in meeting their PTC requirements, they said. Also, the FRA is encouraging state departments of transportation and governors to help ensure that commuter railroads at-risk of noncompliance have sufficient technical resources and support to meet the year-end deadline.

“The vast majority of railroads mandated to deploy and operate interoperable PTC systems have shown significant progress,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. “I strongly urge those railroads that haven’t yet commenced RSD, conducted interoperability testing, or submitted PTC safety plans to intensify their efforts and take advantage of FRA’s technical assistance.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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