Characterizing progress on Positive Train Control as “uneven,” Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory pledged that the agency he now officially leads “is taking a proactive approach to ensure railroads acquire, install, test and fully implement certified PTC systems in time to meet the congressional interim deadline of Dec. 31, 2018.”
“FRA is committed to doing its part to ensure railroads and suppliers are working together to implement PTC systems,” Batory said.
This is the first time that FRA has publicly—and correctly—referred to the Dec. 31, 2018 date as “interim.” FRA on March 20 released a status update on its efforts to assist railroads in implementing PTC, along with the railroads’ self-reported progress for the fourth quarter of 2017.
“The latest data confirms that railroads continue to make progress in installing PTC system hardware, with 15 railroads reporting they have completed installation of all hardware necessary for PTC system implementation and another 11 railroads reporting they have installed more than 80% of PTC system hardware,” Batory noted. “In addition, all but three railroads report having acquired sufficient spectrum for their PTC system needs.”
Between Jan. 2 and Feb. 14, 2018, FRA hosted face-to-face meetings with executives from each of the 41 railroads subject to the statutory PTC mandate. The purpose of the meetings was to evaluate each railroad’s PTC status and learn what remaining steps each needs to take to have a PTC system fully implemented by the December deadline or, at a minimum, to meet the statutory criteria necessary to qualify for an alternative schedule—essentially, an extension to Dec. 31, 2020.
As a result of the meetings with railroads, FRA is now meeting with PTC suppliers “to learn more about their capacity to meet the high demands for railroads’ implementation of PTC systems in a timely manner,” Batory said.
Fourth quarter 2017 data, current as of Dec. 31, 2017, shows PTC systems are in operation on approximately 56% of freight railroads’ route-miles that are required to be governed by PTC systems—up from 45% in the third quarter and 16% on Dec. 31, 2016. Passenger railroads have made less progress, with PTC systems in operation on only 24% of required route-miles, unchanged from the previous quarter.
As explanation: All railroads subject to the statutory PTC implementation mandate must implement FRA-certified and interoperable PTC systems by year-end 2018. Under the Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015, however, Congress permits a railroad to request FRA’s approval of an “alternate schedule” with a deadline beyond Dec. 31, 2018, but no later than Dec. 31, 2020, for certain non-hardware, operational aspects of PTC system implementation. The congressional mandate requires FRA to approve a railroad’s alternative schedule, if that railroad submits a written request to FRA that demonstrates the railroad has met the statutory criteria set forth under 49 U.S.C. § 20157(a)(3)(B).
For more key implementation data for the fourth quarter, see the infographics here: https://www.fra.dot.gov/ptc
To view the public version of each railroad’s Quarterly PTC Progress Report (Form FRA F 6180.165, OMB Control No. 2130-0553) for Quarter 4 of 2017, visit each railroad’s PTC docket on https://www.regulations.gov/. Railroads’ PTC docket numbers are available at https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0628.