U.S. Class I freight railroads continue to make “consistent progress” in installing positive train control (PTC), according to the latest PTC implementation status update from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
The FRA said freight railroads had installed positive train control on 16 percent of required track as of the end of 2016, up from 12 percent in the third quarter, while passenger lines had not made as much headway, increasing from 23 percent of tracks to 24 percent during the same period.
PTC is a wireless communication system that can override a conductor to slow or stop a train to prevent an accident. Congress mandated implementation of PTC in 2008 for all U.S. railroads by Dec. 31, 2015.
When railroads realized they would fail to meet the deadline, many threatened to shut down entirely rather than be subject to steep fines and increased liability, prompting lawmakers to extend the deadline in order to avoid a potential shutdown of major cargo and passenger services. Supporters of the system claim it will drastically improve railroad safety, but railways have complained that PTC, which relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers, is complicated and expensive to install.
The deadline extension to 2018 included a provision under which railroads could petition the FRA for an extra two years to implement the intricate system.
The FRA’s status update includes quarterly data for all railroads as of Dec. 30, 2016, covering track segments completed, employees trained, radio towers installed, route miles in PTC operation and other key implementation data. FRA in March 2016 began requiring railroads to submit quarterly reports to the administration on their progress in implementation of PTC.
“We continue to closely monitor railroads’ progress implementing Positive Train Control,” FRA Executive Director Patrick Warren said in a statement. “With less than two years remaining to complete the implementation process, it is imperative that railroads continue to meet implementation milestones.”
An infographic showing PTC implementation status of individual railroads
can be found on the FRA’s website.