BNSF files for PTC deadline extension, cites interoperability challenges

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
rail bridges
The First Street railroad bridge runs over a massive BNSF rail yard.
BNSF Railway

BNSF Railway, citing interoperability issues, has filed a two-year extension request of the Positive Train Control (PTC) deadline with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

As of December 2017, BNSF had fully installed and was operating under PTC on all mandated subdivisions in advance of the Dec. 21, 2018, deadline. BNSF explains that the extension request was filed and is required due to FRA’s current interpretation of the law that full implementation status cannot be achieved until all non-BNSF trains and/or equipment operating on its PTC-equipped lines are also PTC-compliant.

“BNSF has succeeded in the adoption of this key safety technology. Even with this request for a deadline extension, BNSF’s PTC network is installed and we are currently running, and will continue to run, more than a thousand trains daily with PTC as we continue to refine the system and resolve technological challenges,” said Chris Matthews, BNSF assistant vice president, Network Control Systems.

As reported, BNSF completed the installation of all mandated PTC infrastructure at the end of 2017, including 88 required subdivisions covering more than 11,500 route miles on its network. However, to be considered fully implemented requires that all other railroads operating across any of BNSF’s PTC-equipped lines must be capable of operating with BNSF’s PTC system. BNSF explains that this interoperability of PTC systems between Class I, commuter and shortline rail carriers remains a challenge.

BNSF has successfully demonstrated interoperability with several railroads that operate on its network, including commuter railroads and Amtrak. However, BNSF says not all railroads that operate on BNSF will have completed their PTC installation by the end of 2018.

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