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US Transport Secretary "concerned" about PTC implementation as reminder of approaching deadline issued.

Posted by Luke Upton on Jan 5, 2018

US Transport Secretary "concerned" about PTC implementation as reminder of approaching deadline issued. (SmartRail World)

US Transport Secretary Elaine Chao has issued a forceful reminder to 47 Class 1, intercity and state and local transit authorities that the deadline for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) is December 31st of this year. Chao’s letter stressed urgency and explained that the coming year is filled with rail safety-oriented initiatives, with PTC implementation among the most important.

“Safety is our top priority at the U.S. Department of Transportation as we believe it is in your organisation,” said Secretary Chao. “It is expected that your organization it taking all possible measures to ensure that it will meet the requirements specified by Congress...”

She noted that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) would continue to work with the railroads as the congressionally mandated deadline approaches. Chao, a year into her position at the Department of Transportation also expressed concern about the insufficient levels of PTC implementation so far.

The letter, sent on 27th December, also states that the FRA; “took significant action to ensure that railroads implement PTC systems in a timely and safe manner, including assessing civil penalties against certain railroads that failed to complete hardware installation milestones they scheduled to complete during calendar year 2016 in their PTC Implementation Plans.”

Elaine Chao (Official Photograph)

“Upon review of the latest data provided by the industry, we are concerned that many of the Nation’s railroads must greatly accelerate their efforts to achieve the Congressionally mandated requirements" added Chao (pictured left). 

According to USDOT as of today, eight of the 37 railroads required to implement PTC systems on their own tracks have obtained conditional PTC System Certification from FRA. In total, 41 railroads are subject to the statutory PTC implementation mandate and must implement FRA-certified PTC systems by the December 31, 2018, deadline, unless a railroad obtains a limited deadline extension.

Twelve railroads have completed installation of all hardware necessary for PTC system implementation. Another 12 railroads report having installed less than 50 percent of the hardware required for their PTC systems, as of September 30, 2017.

Twenty-six railroads have begun field testing PTC systems on segments of track. Data submitted by railroads show that PTC systems are in operation on 45% of the required route miles of track owned by freight railroads and 24% of the route miles of track owned by passenger railroads, as of September 30, 2017.

Following the Amtrak derailment in December, a number of US politicians have also urge railways to inject further urgency into the roll out of Positive Train Control. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) wrote in the New Haven Register:

“Our worst railroad nightmare has happened again - tragic fatalities in a resulting from entirely preventable excessive speed. It was preventable by Positive Train Control, a life-saving technology that can slow a speeding train and stop a collision. Three people might be alive in Washington State if Congress had not delayed the deadline for implementing PTC from 2015 to 2018.

The U.S. Department of Transportation must be aggressive and assertive in imposing strong fines and penalties for any railroad that fails to meet the 2018 deadline. Congress must hold their feet to the fire and refuse additional extensions. We cannot afford further delay of this lifesaving technology.”

Positive Train Control and the PTC deadline is a major feature of SafeRail 2018Dedicated to safety and security in the industry SafeRail brings together leading experts to discuss the challenges faced by the industry, the latest solutions and best practice. 2018 speaker highlights include... Paul Renaud (Executive Director PTC Delivery, Canadian National Railway), Darrell Maxey (Deputy Chief Operating Officer (PTC & Engineering), Metrolink SCRRA), and Mark Hartong (Senior Scientist for PTC, Federal Railroad Administration). Learn more here. 

You may also be interested in... 

Read: Amtrak to get 300+ train diesel fleet PTC-ready for 2018 deadline.

Download: Tracks into the future: Digital signalling and train control

Read; California, Florida, New York and 10 other US states will receive $197 million to fund PTC upgrades. 

Read: Officials launch audit after new concerns that PTC won’t be ready by 2018.


Topics: Signalling

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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