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PTC implementation updates for Q4 2019 published by FRA

Posted: 28 February 2020 | | No comments yet

Based on self-reported progress, FRA’s Q4 update details that PTC systems are in RSD or operation on 55,601 miles of rail route across the U.S.

FRA publishes PTC implementation updates for Q4 2019

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published its update for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2019 on the self-reported progress of U.S. railroads towards fully implementing positive train control (PTC) systems, as required by Congress.  

FRA’s Q4 update has been based on the Fourth Quarter 2019 PTC Progress Reports provided by the 42 railroads statutorily required to implement the PTC technology. As of 31 December 2019, most railroads are operating their systems in revenue service, or in advanced field testing, known as revenue service demonstration (RSD).

Ronald L. Batory, Federal Railroad Administration Administrator, said: “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.” 

The FRA update outlines that PTC systems were in RSD or operation on 55,601 miles of rail route – representing 96.3 per cent of the roughly 58,000 miles subject to the mandate. By the end of 2019, PTC systems were governing operations on 98.7 per cent of the Class I railroads’ and 99.8 per cent of Amtrak’s mandated main lines.

Though PTC systems are in RSD on several commuter railroads’ entire mandated networks, only 54.7 per cent of commuter railroads’ cumulative required route miles were PTC-governed as of the end of 2019, only a slight increase from 41.9 per cent in the previous quarter.  

Additional figures show that interoperability has reportedly been achieved in 38 per cent of the 229 applicable host-tenant railroad relationships as of 31 December 2019, displaying a 13 per cent increase since Quarter 3 of 2019. 

With only 10 months remaining before the deadline set by Congress for the full implementation of PTC, FRA is continuing to direct additional resources to railroads at risk of not fully implementing an FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system on their required main lines by 31 December 2020. 

In order to evaluate the risk of noncompliance from U.S. railroads, 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 interoperability, as required
  4. A host railroad’s expected date to submit its PTC Safety Plan to FRA, as required to obtain PTC System Certification.

When considering the outlined factors and the self-reported progress provided by U.S. railroads, FRA currently considers the following eight host railroads at risk of not fully implementing a PTC system on all required main lines by 31 December 2020: 

  • 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)
  • TEXRail. 
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