FRA reports “significant progress” on PTC

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) First Quarter 2019 Positive Train Control Progress Report shows “significant progress” toward full implementation on required rights-of-way, which must be completed by Dec. 31, 2020.

The railroads’ self-reported progress shows that, as of March 31, 2019, PTC systems were in operation on almost 48,050 of the nearly 58,000 route-miles subject to the statutory mandate, a 3% increase from fourth-quarter 2018. Also, railroads are conducting RSDs (revenue service demonstrations) on an additional 341 route-miles.

“With approximately 19 months remaining until the statutory implementation deadline of December 31, 2020, FRA continues to conduct comprehensive and vigorous regulatory oversight of railroad efforts to meet it,” FRA said. “It is doing so by providing technical assistance to all host and tenant railroads, and coordinating with PTC system component suppliers and vendors.

“All 41 railroads subject to the statutory mandate complied with the law by either fully implementing a PTC system by Dec. 31, 2018, or demonstrating they qualified for FRA approval of an alternative schedule, permitting up to two additional years to finish fully implementing PTC systems on all their required main lines. Specifically, 4 railroads had fully installed PTC and 37 others sufficiently demonstrated they met or exceeded the six statutory criteria necessary to qualify for an alternative schedule. All railroads have committed to fully implementing PTC on their required main lines by Dec. 31, 2020.”

With all necessary PTC system hardware installed, spectrum acquired and testing having been initiated as of Dec. 31, 2018, the remaining steps for full implementation include: (1) conducting RSDs of uncertified PTC systems on the general rail network; (2) submitting a PTC Safety Plan and obtaining PTC System Certification from FRA (host railroads only); (3) achieving interoperability between host railroads and tenant railroads; and (4) activating the PTC system so it governs all operations on the required main lines. FRA has also developed a new set of graphics to track railroad progress, focusing on each of these significant remaining elements of full implementation.

“A key requirement of the original statutory mandate is interoperability, meaning the controlling locomotives and cab cars of any host railroad and tenant railroad operating on the same main line will communicate with and respond to the PTC system, including uninterrupted movements over property boundaries,” FRA noted.

For Class II and III tenant carriers that operate on at least one main line subject to the mandate, FRA sent a letter in April to each “emphasizing the importance of timely implementation, and inviting them to meet with FRA in Washington D.C. this summer,” the agency said. “FRA plans to meet individually with each tenant railroad to offer technical assistance with respect to PTC system implementation.”

On June 5, FRA will host the second PTC Collaboration Session to share best practices with industry and jointly address any challenges. “We will maintain our laser-like focus on this rail technology initiative, and FRA will continue allocating and leveraging all necessary resources to support the swift implementation of PTC,” said Administrator Ronald L. Batory.

To view FRA’s infographics summarizing railroads’ progress toward fully implementing PTC systems as of March 31, 2019, visit To view the public version of each railroad’s Quarterly PTC Progress Report for Quarter 1 of 2019, visit each railroad’s PTC docket on Railroads’ PTC docket numbers are available at

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