Testifying on Sept. 13 at a House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials hearing on Positive Train Control, Amtrak Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek said—in contrast to what President and CEO Richard Anderson has stated in previous hearings—that the railroad will not discontinue long-distance train operations on freight railroad routes that lack fully functioning PTC by Jan, 1, 2019, and will apply to the Federal Railroad Administration for an alternative schedule with a Dec. 31, 2020 deadline.
“Amtrak’s goal is to continue to operate all of our services over all of our current routes come January 1, 2019,” Naparstek said. “Exactly how we accomplish this will vary across our network, based on the specifics of each route, but I want to assure the Committee that, at this time, 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 of our network.”
Naperstek also addressed PTC implementation problems that most of its tenant commuter railroads on the Northeast Corridor and other Amtrak-owned lines are dealing with. Again, contrary to what Anderson stated in an earlier hearing, he said, “Our aim is to ensure that all of our tenants have an operational system as soon as possible”
“We are mindful of the impacts that any disruption of commuter service may have on the regions we serve and the potential safety consequences that could follow.” Naperstek said. “Thus, Amtrak is continuing to work with any tenants who believe they may be at risk of not having fully completed the installation and commissioning of PTC equipment on their trains for use on our tracks. We will work with these carriers and the FRA to explore, through our Safety Management System process, the potential of risk mitigation strategies that could be applied in such situations until full installation and commissioning is achieved.”
“The testimony makes it clear Amtrak is planning to operate the current network in the coming fiscal year, with additional safety actions for some segments, as we strive for the goal of Positive Train Control or an equivalent on all our routes,” Chicago-based spokesperson Marc Magliari said.
Amtrak “has made significant progress implementing PTC across the routes and equipment we control,” Naperstek said. “As of Sept. 10, 2018, 88% of the minimum number of Amtrak-owned locomotives required for revenue service are fully equipped and PTC operable; 122 of 142 installations on 114 state-owned locomotives and cab cars that Amtrak operates or maintains are complete, and 53 are also tested, and PTC operable; 8 of 11 installation/track segments have been completed; 132 of 140 radio towers are fully installed and equipped; 100% of employees have been trained as required per the PTC Implementation Plan to run in revenue service; 607 of 901 route-miles are in PTC operation, and 480 route-miles are in testing.”
At a Feb. 15, 2018 House Railroad Subcommittee PTC hearing, Richard Anderson sparked a major controversy when he testified that Amtrak would not operate its long-distance trains on lines not equipped with fully operational PTC in 2019 if its host freight railroads failed to meet the Dec. 31 interim deadline for installation. He also said that Amtrak would prohibit non-PTC-compliant equipment from operating on the lines it owns, mostly on the Northeast Corridor.