Commuter rail PTC progress “strong and continuous”: APTA

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, Editor, Railway Track & Structures; and Engineering Editor, Railway Age
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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) provided a second-quarter 2018 update to progress the commuter rail industry has made toward implementing Positive Train Control (PTC).

APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas lauded the commuter rail industry’s progress, but said it was still too early to predict if any of APTA’s commuter rail members would miss the Dec. 31, 2018, statutory interim deadline.

“Every year, 30 commuter railroads across America safely carry passengers on 501 million trips,” said Skoutelas. “With safety as our number one priority, the commuter railroads are making strong and continuous progress in implementing PTC.”

Compared to first quarter statistics, the biggest markers to see movement are the number of employees trained in PTC, which went up to 74% in Q2 compared with 61% in Q1, and the percentage of back office control systems that are ready for operation, which increased to 78% in Q2 compared with 70% in Q1.

APTA’s analysis found that as of June 30, 2018, the commuter rail industry has:

  • 91% of the needed spectrum acquired; up from 88% in the first quarter.
  • 85% of the onboard equipment has been installed on locomotives and cab cars etc., up from 81% in the first quarter.
  • 79% of wayside installations have been completed, static from the first quarter. However, in the first quarter, 79% of 9,772 wayside installations were completed; in the second quarter, it’s 79% of 14,083 wayside installations.
  • 78% of back office control systems are ready for operation; up from 70% in the first quarter.
  • 74% of employees have been trained in PTC, up from 61% in the first quarter.
  • 34% of commuter railroads are in testing, revenue service demonstration or are operating their trains with PTC, up from 30% in the first quarter

During an Aug. 14 media call, Skoutelas was joined by Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel and Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski, who offered insight into the challenges of implementing PTC.

“Positive Train Control is a critical commuter rail safety enhancement,” said Knueppel. “Implementing PTC at SEPTA, during a challenging period of capital funding, has been an authority-wide commitment. Throughout this effort, our in-house team has been working continuously with Amtrak, our freight partners and third-party contractors to address technical and interoperability challenges. SEPTA trains on all 13 Regional Rail Lines are equipped and operating with PTC, and SEPTA is proud to have implemented this safety technology for our customers and employees.”

“Implementing Positive Train Control in Chicago’s dense and busy railroad network has been very challenging, but Metra is right where we said we’d be in terms of finishing the job,” said Derwinski. “Working with our freight partners, we expect to have PTC implemented or in revenue service demonstration on six of our 11 lines by the end of 2018, and to complete the job by 2020.”

APTA called the implementation of PTC an “unparalleled technical challenge” given its scale, complexity and time required, but noted that the commuter rail industry is moving aggressively to meet the challenge despite the technical and financial constraints.

APTA has also launched a website dedicated to the commuter rail industry’s PTC progress; it can be found at

Categories: C&S, Commuter/Regional, News, Passenger, PTC, Regulatory Tags: , , , ,