Friday, August 22, 2014

Exemptions expanded in FRA's final PTC rule

Written by  Mischa Wanek-Libman, Engineering Editor

The Federal Railroad Aministration published its final rule concerning Positive Train Control (PTC) systems in the Aug. 22, 2014, Federal Register. The rule, which takes effect Oct. 21, 2014, expands certain exemptions and comes 16 months before the full implementation deadline of Dec. 31, 2015.

The FRA final rule revises an existing regulatory exception to the requirement to install a PTC system for track segments carrying freight only that present a de minimis (minimal) safety risk. The final rule also adds a new exception for PTC-unequipped freight trains associated with certain freight yard operations to operate within PTC systems.

Additionally, the rule revises the existing regulations related to en route failures of a PTC system, adds new provisions related to other failures of a PTC system and amends the regulations on applications for approval of certain modifications of signal and train control systems.

Finally, this final rule makes technical amendments to FRA's other signal and train control regulations and FRA's regulations governing highway-rail grade crossing warning systems.

The rule is a result of an April 2011 petition by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) requesting that FRA initiate a rulemaking to expand the de minimis exception and otherwise amend the rules concerning the limited operations exception, en route failures of trains operating within PTC systems, and the discontinuance of signal systems once PTC systems are installed. AAR also requested that FRA develop a new exception that would allow unequipped trains associated with certain yard operations to operate within PTC systems.

Full text of the final rule is available at the Federal Register website.