APTA reports commuter rail’s steady progress on PTC

Written by Kyra Senese, managing editor
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An analysis released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has concluded that the nation's commuter rail industry continued to make progress in its positive train control (PTC) implementation efforts during the first quarter of 2018.  

APTA said the recent progress identified is representative of the commuter rail industry’s commitment to safety and efforts to meet the congressional deadline to implement PTC.

“Safety is the commuter railroad industry’s number one priority,” said Paul P. Skoutelas, APTA’s president and CEO. “Implementing this complex communications technology will provide a critical safety overlay on top of already safe commuter rail systems. APTA members are working aggressively to implement this important safety system as soon as possible.”

As of March 31, 2018, the commuter rail industry has completed the following:

  • 88 percent of spectrum has been acquired
  • 81 percent of 15,192 pieces of onboard equipment have been installed on locomotives and cab cars
  • 79 percent of 9,772 wayside or on-track equipment installations have been completed
  • 70 percent of back-office control systems are ready for operation
  • 61 percent of 15,119 employees have been trained in PTC
  • 30 percent of the 3,339 miles that commuter rail operates on is in testing, revenue service demonstration, or is fully operational

Current law requires commuter railroads to complete PTC implementation as of Dec. 31, 2018, or, if certain milestones are met, by Dec. 31, 2020.

The required milestones are as follows:

  • Installed all PTC hardware (wayside and onboard equipment)
  • Acquired all necessary spectrum for PTC implementation
  • Completed all employee training
  • Initiated testing on at least one territory subject to the PTC requirement
  • Submitted a plan and schedule to the Secretary of Transportation for implementing a PTC system

Railroads that reach these milestones by late 2018 must implement PTC as soon as practicable and no later than Dec. 31, 2020, APTA explained.

“The commuter rail industry has faced significant financial constraints and technical challenges in implementing PTC,” the association said in a statement. “At a time when the national transit state of good repair backlog stands at an estimated $90 billion, the commuter railroad industry’s cost to implement PTC will exceed $4.1 billion, diverting funds from other critical infrastructure and safety priorities.”

Since mandating PTC installation in 2008, the federal government has allocated $272 million in PTC grants to commuter railroads, more than 70 percent—$197 million—of which was awarded last May.

In the recently enacted Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018, Congress appropriated $250 million of funding that is designated for PTC implementation and available to commuter and other railroads.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) made the $250 million available for PTC grants on May 18, 2018. The FRA plans to host a webinar on June 4 to discuss the grants.

Categories: C&S, Commuter/Regional, Safety/Training