The U.S. DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a quarterly status update on railroads’ self-reported progress, as of June 30, 2020, toward fully implementing positive train control (PTC) systems by Dec. 31, 2020, as required by Congress. Based on railroads’ second quarter 2020 PTC progress reports and current PTC implementation plans, nearly all railroads subject to the statutory mandate are operating their systems in revenue service or in advanced field testing, known as revenue service demonstration (RSD). As of June 30, PTC technology remains to be activated on approximately 700 required route miles.
“I am highly pleased by the amount of progress railroads have made moving toward fully implementing PTC systems,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. “While more work lies ahead, the significant advancements made thus far are encouraging. I applaud all railroads involved in this unprecedented effort for their intensive collaboration to get all concerned to the finish line.”
As of June 30, PTC systems were in RSD or in operation on approximately 56,846 route miles—98.8 percent of the 57,537 route miles subject to the mandate. This represents a 0.7 percentage point increase since the first quarter of 2020 and indicates that PTC technology was activated on an additional 305 miles during the second quarter. As previously reported, PTC systems are currently governing operations on all PTC-mandated main lines owned or controlled by Class 1 railroads and other freight host railroads. As of June 30, 76.1 percent of commuter railroads’ mandated route miles were governed by PTC technology—a 12.9 percentage point increase since the last quarter.
In addition, the railroad industry continues to make notable strides toward completing interoperability testing and meeting the interoperability requirements under the statute and FRA’s regulations. As of June 30, host railroads reported that interoperability has been achieved by 65.5 percent of the 220 applicable, host-tenant railroad relationships—a 17 percentage point increase since the first quarter of 2020.
Based on the criteria FRA utilizes to evaluate the risk of noncompliance, FRA currently considers two host railroads at risk of not fully implementing PTC on all required main lines by December 31: New Jersey Transit and New Mexico Rail Runner Express. Two railroads were removed from the at-risk list based on their substantial progress: the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad (Metra) and TEXRail. Both railroads entered RSD on 100 percent of their required main lines and submitted their PTC safety plans and are now focusing on completing interoperability by the December deadline.
“This is the kind of synergy, partnership and cooperation we want to encourage,” said Batory, adding that FRA continues to direct additional staff resources to support railroads at risk of not fully implementing an FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system by the end-of-year deadline.
The Department has provided approximately $3.4 billion in grants and loans to support the industry’s mandated implementation of PTC technology. FRA continues to help railroads fully implement PTC systems by providing direct technical assistance, on-site technical support, and hosting industry-wide collaboration sessions.
To view detailed infographics depicting railroads’ progress toward fully implementing PTC systems as of June 30, 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 2 of 2020, please visit https://railroads.dot.gov/train-control/ptc/ptc-annual-and-quarterly-reports.