“We have partnered with them on the federal mandate and in some cases beyond the federal mandate to install PTC on subdivisions not required of BNSF.”
Ahead of the end-of-year deadline for the US safety system that will bypass remove human-error to improve rail network safety, positive train control (PTC), the country’s largest passenger operator has teamed up the largest freight operator, to begin its implementation. Amtrak’s work with BNSF will see the communication-based safety system rolled out across several of the freight company’s subdivisions and is significant due to the fact that it is the first activation of PTC on host-owned territory used by Amtrak.
Amtrak said that despite achieving the milestone, there was still work ahead to fully equip the US network to “activate PTC and make the national railroad network safer”.
BNSF said that it has in some case exceeded the requirements placed on them by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), providing the requisite infrastructure that enables Amtrak to operate on its network. “We have partnered with them on the federal mandate and in some cases beyond the federal mandate to install PTC on subdivisions not required of BNSF,” said Chris Matthews, BNSF assistant vice president of network control systems.
The challenge ahead for other railroad companies dotted across North America to implement fully operational PTC technology is significant and requires a great deal of work. In January, SmartRail World reported on the concern that the US Transport Secretary, Elaine Chao, had about whether operators would meet the 2018 deadline that had already been pushed back. Secretary Chao issued a forceful reminder at the time when she said: “It is expected that your organisation it taking all possible measures to ensure that it will meet the requirements specified by Congress.”
Where PTC isn’t working there is an expectation in the industry that operators will be given alternative implementation dates. That’s not the case for all, however, and Amtrak has said that it will suspend services on some routes that aren’t protected by PTC and may seek alternative modes of service until they are.
In further news to the BNSF-Amtrak partnership, a week after the initial announcement BNSF requested a two-year extension to the end-of 2018 deadline set by the FRA. Placing the blame with interoperability delays, BNSF said that despite already using PTC on part of its network they would require more time to fine-tune the safety system and to overcome technical problems.
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