Due to bureaucratic delays, the railroad industry will no longer be able to install positive train control (PTC) on 40 percent of its nationwide network by Dec. 31, 2015, according to an updated report by the Association of American Railroads.
The industry had originally projected that 40 percent of the network would be complete before the Federal Communications Commission imposed a year-long moratorium on installing the antennas needed to get positive train control off the ground. The delay had to do with environmental evaluations of the antennas. The AAR said that a “lengthy federal approval process mandated by the FCC … has seriously delayed the implementation of nationwide interoperable PTC.”
PTC, a GPS navigation system installed to prevent collisions that was mandated by Congress in 2008, has widely been seen as having mixed benefits; skeptics point to the cost of installing the infrastructure and the unproven technology being used.
The AAR now projects that only 20 percent of the nation’s network will be ready by the deadline. According to the organization, more than $4 billion has already been spent by the industry to install PTC, which will eventually be installed on 60,000 miles of track.
“Everyone in the industry is greatly frustrated at the inability to move forward and do what we need to do to advance PTC installation,” AAR’s president and chief executive officer, Edward Hamberger, said in a statement. “It’s been two steps forward, three steps back for months and we simply don’t have the certainty we need to move ahead and get PTC tested, fully functioning, certified and ready to go.”
Though installing PTC on tracks is still an issue, the industry has placed PTC equipment on half of the locomotives that will require it; mapped out most of the track that needs PTC upgrades; and replaced 50 percent of the track signals that will ultimately need to be upgraded, according to the AAR.