Federal Railroad Administration publishes Q3 2020 PTC status, and NJ Transit responds

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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FRA PTC progress report is positive, except for concern over NJ Transit
NJ Transit

Editor’s Note: We have reproduced the FRA’s report, released this morning, regarding the status of PTC implementation on the required railroad mileage in the United States. The report devotes a paragraph to the FRA’s concern around whether NJ Transit will meet the deadline. RT&S reached out to NJ Transit for comment, and their response is provided below, in a clearly marked separate section we added within the body of the FRA report. DCL

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today released a quarterly status update on railroads’ self-reported progress, as of September 30, 2020, toward fully implementing positive train control (PTC) systems by December 31, 2020, as required by Congress. All railroads subject to the statutory mandate are currently operating PTC systems in revenue service or in advanced field testing, known as revenue service demonstration (RSD). As of September 30, PTC technology remains to be activated on approximately 223 required route miles, based on railroads’ Third Quarter 2020 PTC Progress Reports, which were due October 31.

“Full implementation of PTC is in sight, owing to everyone’s unparalleled cooperation and determination,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “I’m incredibly proud of the intensive collaborations we have forged. Once complete, railroads, rail workers, and rail passengers will all benefit from this transformational accomplishment in railroad safety.”

As of September 30, 2020, PTC systems were in RSD or in operation on approximately 57,314 route miles — 99.6% of the 57,537 route miles subject to the mandate. This represents a 0.8 percentage point increase since the second quarter of 2020 and indicates that PTC technology was activated on an additional 468 miles during the third quarter. As previously reported, PTC systems are currently governing operations on all PTC-mandated main lines owned or controlled by Class I railroads and other freight host railroads. Based on railroads’ third quarter reports, 92.3% of commuter railroads’ mandated route miles are governed by PTC technology — a 16.2 percentage point increase since the last quarter. In addition, Amtrak reports that, as of September 30, 2020, a PTC system is now in operation on all PTC-mandated main lines Amtrak owns or controls — a 0.03 percentage point increase since FRA’s last status update.

In addition, railroads have made additional gains toward completing interoperability testing and meeting the interoperability requirements under the statute and FRA’s regulations. As of the third quarter, host railroads reported that interoperability has been achieved by 84% of the 219 applicable, host-tenant railroad relationships — an 18.6 percentage point increase since the second quarter of 2020.

NJ Transit (paragraph in FRA report)

Based on the criteria FRA utilizes to evaluate the risk of noncompliance, FRA currently considers one railroad, New Jersey Transit (NJT), at risk of not fully implementing PTC technology on all its required main lines by December 31, 2020. Specifically, NJT reports that, as of September 30, 2020, it is operating a PTC system in RSD on approximately 48% of its 375.9 PTC-mandated route miles. FRA continues to direct additional resources and technical assistance to NJT, including on-site support to oversee and expedite testing and RSD. FRA’s leadership and PTC specialists meet with NJT multiple times each month to provide advice regarding its schedule and the remaining actions NJT must take to fully implement an FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system on NJT’s required main lines by the statutory deadline. Furthermore, FRA regularly sends correspondence to NJT, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and NJT’s major PTC system vendors and suppliers to underscore the importance of timely PTC system implementation.

*****FRA report continues below after Parsons status report*****

NJ Transit Response (response from NJ Transit to RT&S – not part of FRA report)

RT&S contacted NJ Transit for their perspective on the likelihood of meeting the 12/31/2020 implementation deadline. Jim Smith, spokesperson for NJT, said “NJ Transit continues to work closely with the FRA as we advance our PTC project toward full implementation by December 31. Parsons, our PTC contractor, provided a status update at the NJ Transit Board Meeting last Thursday that illustrated a timeline to full implementation by the end of the year and we intend to hold them fully accountable to meeting that deadline.”

Here is the status report provided to NJ Transit by Parsons at last Thursday’s NJ Transit Board Meeting:

*****End of NJ Transit statement and Parsons status report – FRA report continues below*****

FRA Report (continued)

As the statutorily-mandated December 31st deadline for full PTC implementation approaches, FRA is highlighting its PTC-related Outreach and Communication with the Industry detailing the agency’s exhaustive stakeholder engagement since 2017. In addition to providing sustained direct technical assistance and on-site support to railroads, FRA held nine PTC Symposia and Collaboration Sessions, and dozens of routine meetings with host and tenant railroads, suppliers, vendors, and industry associations. In addition, over the four-year period, FRA has continuously improved upon the speed with which the agency reviews railroads’ PTC filings. Finally, the Department of Transportation has supported full and timely implementation of PTC technology by providing approximately $3.4 billion in grant and loan funding to support railroads and other entities that sought Federal financial assistance for that purpose.

To view detailed infographics depicting railroads’ progress toward fully implementing PTC systems as of September 30, 2020, please visit https://www.fra.dot.gov/ptc. To view the public version of each railroad’s Quarterly PTC Progress Report (Form FRA F 6180.165, OMB Control No. 2130-0553) for Quarter 3 of 2020, please visit https://railroads.dot.gov/train-control/ptc/ptc-annual-and-quarterly- reports.

Categories: Commuter/Regional, Freight, Passenger, Railroad News, Regulatory, Safety/Training, Technology
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