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AAR urges FRA to stick to Congressional scope of PTC mandate

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The Association of American Railroads urged the Federal Railroad Administration to faithfully follow the Congressional statutory mandate requiring railroads to implement positive train control technologies across certain portions of the national freight rail network. In 2008, Congress passed a law requiring the nation's freight railroads by Dec. 31, 2015 to implement PTC on certain main line tracks used for transporting passengers or toxic chemicals. However, AAR notes that FRA's proposed rule would impose a financial burden above and beyond what Congress intended, potentially adding hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cost to the railroads as they face using private capital to pay for the federal PTC mandate.  

"The railroad industry
provides efficient, safe and environmentally beneficial transportation
services," said AAR Senior Vice President Safety and Operations, Robert
VanderClute. "By proposing substantial expenditures beyond what Congress is
requiring, the proposed regulations would undermine the ability of the
railroads to continue to provide the public benefits of rail."

 

In his testimony,
VanderClute noted several elements of the FRA proposed rule that pose
significant technical, operational and financial challenges to the industry.
Specifically, AAR objected to FRA’s proposal to:

• base PTC
implementation on 2008 traffic patterns;

• require dual
displays in locomotives, and

• allow Class II and
Class III railroads to operate locomotives unequipped with PTC technology over
PTC equipped tracks.

 

"It does not make any
sense that Congress would mandate PTC for TIH routes that existed in 2008,
knowing that those routes would be subject to change in the years to come,"
VanderClute said. He also noted that FRA is aware these routes would change
after 2008 due to implementation of other federal rules requiring risk
assessment of the routes used for TIH.

 

"Given FRA’s cost-benefit
analysis, and the adverse consequences of extending the mandate beyond what
Congress required, FRA should use Dec. 31, 2015 as the date governing the
extent of the railroads’ mandatory PTC obligation," he said.

 

AAR also said FRA’s
proposed requirement for dual-displays in the locomotive could cost the
industry as much as $200 million for equipment that would serve no additional
safety purpose.

 

"Simply put, the engineer
operates the locomotive, and the presence or absence of a second display will
have no effect on how the engineer carries out his or her responsibilities,"
VanderClute said. "All a second display would accomplish is to require the
industry to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a screen serving no useful
purpose."

 

Finally, AAR questioned
FRA’s logic surrounding its proposal to allow Class II and Class III railroads
to use locomotives not equipped with PTC technology on PTC-equipped routes. FRA
was basing this proposed part of the rule on the assertion that the financial
burden on Class II and III railroads outweighs the safety benefits.

 

"Surely Congress did not
require Class I railroads to spend billions of dollars on PTC systems only to
allow Class II and III railroads to operate trains without the technology on
our tracks equipped with PTC," VanderClute said.

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