Friday, July 17, 2009

FRA issues NPRM on PTC technology

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo said proposed rules are designed to prevent train collisions through the use of Positive Train Control. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking prescribes how railroads must use Positive Train Control systems to prevent train-to-train collisions.

PTC technology is capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements should a locomotive engineer fail to take appropriate action. For example, such technology can force a train to stop before it passes a red signal, thereby averting a potential collision. Other benefits of PTC systems include prevention of over-speed derailments and misaligned switches, as well as unauthorized incursions by a train into work zones.

“These proposed rules give railroads the framework to use this life-saving technology,” said LaHood. “We believe this is an important step toward making freight, intercity and commuter rail lines safer for the benefit of communities across the country.”

Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, major freight railroads and intercity and commuter rail operators must submit their plans for PTC to FRA for approval by April, 16, 2010. PTC systems must be fully in place by the end of 2015. The proposed rules will specify how the technically complex PTC systems must function and indicate how FRA will assess a railroad’s PTC plan before it can become operational.

“FRA is setting the bar high in terms of design, construction and oversight of PTC technologies among different railroads,” said FRA Administrator Joe Szabo. “FRA will continue to advocate for ways to strengthen safety standards in the railroad industry.”

The major freight railroads have reached an agreement for the operation of PTC technology across different rail systems, allowing for industry-wide use. In addition, FRA is coordinating efforts with the Federal Communications Commission to make a sufficient amount of radio frequency spectrum available, which is essential for PTC technology to function properly. This development will allow PTC technology to send and receive a constant stream of wireless signals regarding the location and speed of passenger and freight trains moving along rail lines.
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