Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Industry leaders discuss PTC progress

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Six industry leaders representing five Class 1 railroads and Amtrak participated in a panel discussion updating attendees of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) Annual Conference on their progress toward PTC implementation.

 

The panelists included Keith Holt from Amtrak; Ed Tilley from BNSF; Matthew Glynn from Canadian National; Denise Lyle from CSX; Eric Hullemeyer from NS and Jeff Young from Union Pacific. Douglas John Bowen, managing editor of Railway Age, moderated the panel.

The railroads' representatives said if all goes according to schedule, testing would begin in 2014 with full implementation occurring in 2015. There are still significant challenges being faced including interoperability and governance of the system. UP's Young said that while the PTC mandate has brought the U.S. Class 1s together to speak as one voice, the railroads are concentrating on the core PTC system and the issue of reliability of the technology has not been addressed as of yet. Hullenmeyer pointed out that even after the core system has been implemented and railroads begin to focus on system enhancements, several of the same issues would continue to present challenges, including interoperability. CN's Glynn said the locomotives themselves are a challenge, comparing the interior of a cab to an airplane cockpit and noting that there is limited space within a locomotive for equipment to be placed.

The C&S budgets of all railroads represented on the panel are heavily stacked toward PTC spending with all representatives saying 50 percent of their budgets are devoted to the mandate. Young mentioned that the mandate has not only stressed C&S budgets, but overall capital plans. In June 2013, UP reached the $1 billion mark on its PTC spending.

While all railroads represented said they are on schedule to implement PTC by 2015, most agreed that 2018 gives them a more optimum time frame. With that said, UP's Young said the industry as a whole has spent approximately $3.5 billion on PTC, hired approximately 5,000 people and developed a brand new technology. He said the industry has never asked for the mandate to be repealed and is not dragging its feet moving toward the implementation deadline.

The AREMA Annual Conference was held in conjunction with Railway Interchange 2013 in Indianapolis, IN, Sept. 29 – Oct. 2.

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