Amtrak marks PTC progress on BNSF lines

Written by William Vantuono, editor-in-chief, Railway Age
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Amtrak, working with BNSF, will the week of June 11 implement Positive Train Control (PTC) on BNSF-owned subdivisions that host the Southwest Chief and California Zephyr, marking the first activation on host-owned territory used by Amtrak.

Full PTC activation on BNSF routes that host these two long-distance trains is expected by the end of August.

“This is a great step for Amtrak,” said BNSF Assistant Vice President Network Control Systems Chris Matthews. “We have the infrastructure in place that allows Amtrak to operate on our network. We have partnered with them on the federal mandate and in some cases beyond the federal mandate to install PTC on subdivisions not required of BNSF. We look forward to continuing that partnership as they roll-out PTC along our routes.”

Amtrak said it is “on track to achieve installation and operation of PTC across the network it controls by the year-end deadline, and is working with partners throughout the industry to advance this system on host infrastructure. Where PTC is not implemented and operational, it is expected that nearly all carriers will qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule under law. For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an FRA-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network by Jan. 1, 2019.”

Amtrak reiterated a position it has taken previously: “For those very limited routes where a host [railroad] may not achieve an alternative schedule by year’s end, Amtrak will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance.”

Amtrak added it “is also working with tenant railroads that operate over Amtrak’s infrastructure as they work to ensure that they have sufficient PTC-comissioned rolling stock by the deadline to operate normal services.” Among these are regional/commuter rail operators NJ Transit, SEPTA, MBTA and LIRR.

Amtrak PTC implementation as of June 12, 2018 on routes and equipment it controls:

  • 380 of 444 Amtrak-owned locomotives are fully equipped and PTC operable (86 percent)
  • 8 of 11 installation/track segments completed (73 percent).
  • 104 of 120 radio towers fully installed and equipped (87 percent).
  • 95 percent of employees who require training to support PTC operations have completed training.
  • 607 of 900 route-miles in PTC operation (67 percent).

By law, to qualify for an alternative schedule (an extension to Dec. 31, 2020), Class I freight railroads and Amtrak (on the lines it owns, not where it is a tenant operator) must have all PTC hardware installed; all radio spectrum acquired; more than 50 percent of PTC territory or route-miles implemented (out of about 60,000 miles that need to be equipped; and all required employee training completed.

“Amtrak’s highest priority is ensuring the safety of our passengers, our crews and the communities we serve, and full implementation of PTC will make the entire network safer,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President of Safety Ken Hylander. “While we are excited to achieve this milestone, we must continue to work together to activate PTC and make the national railroad network safer.”

Categories: C&S, Class 1, Commuter/Regional, Freight, Intercity, Passenger, Regulatory, Safety/Training
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