FRA: PTC at 98%

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) first-quarter 2020 update on railroads’ self-reported progress on fully implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) by the Dec. 31, 2020 deadline shows that, as of March 31, 2020, the job is 98% complete. Nearly all railroads subject to the statutory mandate are operating their systems in revenue service or in advanced field testing, known as revenue service demonstration (RSD), with PTC technology remaining to be activated on only approximately 1,100 required route-miles.

As of March 31, 2020, PTC systems were in RSD or in operation on 56,541 of the nearly 58,000 route-miles subject to the mandate. Specifically, PTC systems were governing operations on all PTC-mandated main lines owned or controlled by Class I freight railroads and other freight host railroads subject to the mandate.

While most commuter railroads’ PTC systems are in RSD on their entire mandated networks, 63.2% of cumulative required route-miles were PTC-governed, an 8.5% increase since 4Q2019. In addition, interoperability has reportedly been achieved in 48.5% of the 229 applicable host-tenant railroad relationship, a 10% increase since 4Q 2019. 

“Recognizing that 33 weeks remain until the final implementation deadline set forth by Congress, FRA continues to direct additional staff resources to railroads at risk of not fully implementing an FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system on their required main lines by Dec .31, 2020,” FRA noted. “To evaluate the risk of noncompliance, FRA is primarily considering the following factors: (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 required interoperability; and (4) a host railroad’s expected date to submit its PTC Safety Plan to FRA, necessary to obtain PTC System Certification.

Based on railroads’ self-reported progress on these factors as of March 31, 2020, FRA currently considers the following four host railroads at risk of not fully implementing a PTC system on all required main lines by Dec. 31, 2020: New Jersey Transit, TEXRail, Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (Metra), and New Mexico Rail Runner Express (Rio Metro).

“We continue to work directly with all ‘to be complaint’ railroads — providing technical support and guidance as requested — to enable them to satisfactorily meet the Congressional deadline,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said. “I’m pleased with the growing number of railroads that have reached critical milestones, and continue to encourage all of them to help each other overcome any remaining challenges from their respective lessons learned.

“We strongly urge the collaborating railroads to work in a safe, focused and aggressive manner to meet this end-of-year deadline. FRA has provided nearly $2.6 billion in grants and loans and thousands of hours of technical assistance to help railroads fully implement PTC systems.

“FRA remains fully committed to facilitating railroad efforts to complete all remaining work. In addition, FRA is encouraging state departments of transportation and governors to help any at-risk commuter railroad within their states to ensure they have sufficient technical resources and support to meet the end-of-year deadline.”

To view detailed infographics depicting railroads’ progress toward fully implementing PTC systems as of March 31, 2020, download the report:

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 1 of 2020, visit

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