Amtrak Looks to Remove Pennsylvania ‘Distant Signals’

Written by Marybeth Luczack, Executive Editor, Railway Age
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Jim Blaze photo

With Positive Train Control (PTC) operational, Amtrak is seeking Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approval to remove automatic wayside signals serving as distant signals to existing interlockings on the Mid-Atlantic Division’s Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg, Pa. line (a Northeast Corridor branch), according to a notice in the Federal Register’s Dec. 7 edition.

“Specifically, Amtrak requests permission to remove automatic wayside signals between Park Interlocking at milepost (MP) 46.3 and Roy Interlocking at MP 94.3,” FRA reported in the Federal Register notice (download below). “In its petition, Amtrak explains that formerly, the automatic wayside signals served as distant signals to the existing interlockings. However, as Amtrak has fully implemented PTC, which imposes ‘updated standards for cab, no-wayside signal territory to remove all automatic signals[,] including distant signals,’ Amtrak seeks permission to remove 10 signals (at MPs 55.3, 59.2, 64.5, 66.1, 70.8, 71.8, 81.5, 86.0, 92.3, and 96.4). Amtrak states that the removal of the signals will ‘eliminate maintenance and operation of unnecessary hardware [that is] no longer needed.’”

All NORAC Rules will remain in effect and there “will be no changes to operating practices because of this modification,” Amtrak reported. “Safety of operation will not be affected. The cab signals system (CSS) without fixed automatic block signals and Positive Train Control (PTC) systems will continue to enforce train speed and positive train stop under normal operations. During CSS failure, PTC will continue to prevent train-to-train collisions through enforcement of positive train stop at interlocking signals when all tracks are not clear to the next interlocking with a permissive signal. During PTC failure, CSS will continue to enforce restricted speed in approach to occupied blocks and stop signals. When both CSS and PTC are failed, trains must follow the operating rules currently in place.”

The project to remove automatic wayside signals will begin immediately upon receiving FRA permission and will be completed within two years, according to Amtrak.

While interested parties may submit comments by Feb. 6, 2023 on Amtrak’s petition to FRA (Docket Number FRA-2022-0095), FRA reported it does not anticipate scheduling a public hearing in “since the facts do not appear to warrant a hearing.”

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