PTC at 96.3%: FRA

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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FRA PTC diagram.

The Federal Railroad Administration Fourth Quarter 2019 PTC Progress Report on railroads’ self-reported progress toward fully implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) by the Dec. 31, 2020 statutory deadline shows that, of the 42 railroads required to implement PTC, most are operating their systems in revenue service, or in advanced field testing known as revenue service demonstration (RSD).

As of Dec. 31, 2019, PTC systems were in RSD or in operation on 55,601 route-miles—96.3% of the nearly 58,000 required route-miles. PTC systems were governing operations on nearly all Class I railroad and Amtrak mandated main lines, 98.7% and 99.8% respectively.

While several commuter railroad PTC systems are in RSD on their entire mandated networks, significant work remains as only 54.7% of their cumulative required route-miles were PTC-governed, vs. 41.9% in 3Q19. In addition, interoperability has “reportedly” been achieved in 38% of the 229 applicable host-tenant railroad relationships, a 13% increase since 3Q19, FRA noted. 

“Recognizing that only 10 months remain until the full implementation deadline set forth by Congress, FRA continues to direct additional resources to railroads at risk of not implementing fully an FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system on their required main lines by Dec. 31, 2020,” FRA said. “To evaluate the risk of noncompliance, FRA is primarily considering the following factors that are associated with the requirements for full implementation of a PTC system: (1) the percentage of mandated route-miles currently governed by a PTC system, including RSD; (2) any unresolved technical issue in implementing a compliant PTC system; (3) the percentage of a host railroad’s tenant railroads that have achieved interoperability, as required; and (4) a host railroad’s expected date to submit its PTC Safety Plan to FRA, as required to obtain PTC System Certification.”

FRA currently considers eight host railroads at risk of not fully implementing a PTC system by the year-end deadline: Alaska Railroad, The Belt Railway Company of Chicago, Florida East Coast Railway (including its tenant railroad, Brightline/Virgin Trains USA), Kansas City Terminal Railway, New Jersey Transit, New Mexico Rail Runner Express, Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp. (Metra), and TEXRail.

FRA said the agency “remains committed to assisting railroads directly, and to the greatest extent possible, including ongoing support during all phases of field testing and RSD operations. In addition, FRA is encouraging state departments of transportation and governors to help ensure that any at-risk commuter railroads have sufficient technical resources and support to meet the end-of-year deadline.”

FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory

“The vast majority of railroads mandated to deploy and operate interoperable PTC systems have shown significant progress,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “I applaud freight and passenger railroads for their direct and sustained engagement with one another, vendors, suppliers and FRA. I strongly urge those railroads that haven’t yet commenced RSD, conducted interoperability testing or submitted PTC Safety Plans to intensify their efforts and take advantage of FRA’s technical assistance.”

To view detailed infographics depicting railroads’ progress toward fully implementing PTC, visit 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 2019, visit https://railroads.dot.gov/train-control/ptc/ptc-annual-and-quarterly-reports

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