Two Class I freight railroads, CN and Union Pacific, each recently issued updates on its progress for positive train control (PTC) implementation.
The objective of PTC systems is to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, and incursions into roadway work limits. PTC sends and receives a continuous stream of data transmitted by wireless signals about the location, speed, and direction of trains, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). PTC systems, added the FRA, utilize advanced technologies including digital radio links, global positioning systems and wayside computer control systems that aid dispatchers and train crews in safely managing train movements. A mandate for PTC systems was included in House and Senate legislation-The Rail Safety and Improvement Act of 2008. The legislation was passed after a September 12, 2008 collision between a freight train and a commuter train in Los Angeles.
Railroads were required by law to have PTC installed by December 31, 2018, which was past the original deadline of December 31, 2015, which the AAR said was arbitrary and unworkable and riddled with technical and legal complexities, as well as railroads and freight rail shippers stressing there would be serious consequences for the nation if the deadline was not extended. The final deadline for full implementation for PTC is December 31, 2020.
On November 25, CN said that it has successfully met the federal requirement to operate PTC on all 35 of its U.S. subdivisions required to be equipped with PTC, meeting these requirements 13 months in advance of the December 2020 deadline. And it added that the company is currently interoperable with Amtrak, CSX, NS, BNSF, CP, and WSOR, with the expectation that it expects to be fully interoperable with all tenant railroads by the December deadline.
“This milestone is a testament to the tenacious dedication of our CN railroading family,” said Rob Reilly, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, in a statement. “It has been a tremendous journey, full of challenges, and obstacles we overcame.”
In late October, Union Pacific reported it implemented PTC on 1,113 route miles in the third quarter, which brings its required PTC-operated route miles to 15,791, or 93%, which includes all required passenger train routes.
“Nearly all Union Pacific trains operating on PTC-mandated rail lines are operating with PTC locomotives,” UP said. “The company expects to have implemented PTC on all required lines by end of 2019, a year before the Congressional deadline. Its interoperability efforts with other railroads will continue through 2020. Union Pacific currently hosts 31 freight and passenger railroads, which must achieve PTC interoperability by December 2020. Eleven of these railroads are already compliant, encompassing 85% of Union Pacific’s interoperable PTC train miles. While Union Pacific’s infrastructure is PTC-ready, it is working to be PTC-interoperable with the remaining partner railroads. The company’s expectation is that they will take necessary steps to reach interoperability on our network by mid-2020.”
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