Amtrak Says PTC Threatens Future of 2 Routes

Amtrak officials have told a Senate committee that it might have to end or reroute the Southwest Chief and Missouri River Runner trains because of high costs to install positive train control technology on two terminal railroads.

The railroads in question are the Kansas City Terminal, which all of the trains use, and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, which is used by the River Runner trains.

Amtrak Vice President of Operations D.J. Stadler said as Class III railroads they are exempt from the federal PTC requirement unless the track is used by passenger trains.

“Because they’re considered Class III, the PTC requirement is triggered by the operation of passenger trains,” Stadler said. “These hosts have maintained that because Amtrak’s trains trigger the PTC requirement, Amtrak is responsible for the cost of PTC installation, which amounts in the case of KCT to $30 million.”

Stadler said Amtrak can’t afford that cost and neither can the state of Missouri

Amtrak has told KCT that Amtrak service over the KCT track will end by the end of 2015 unless the parties come up with an alternative

“We do not wish to cease service, but if this issue is not resolved soon, it could end in either the rerouting or termination of the Southwest Chief and the River Runner,” he said.

The Senate committee hearing was focused on PTC installation and held in reaction to a May 12 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia on a portion of track where PTC has not yet been implemented.

In 2008, Congress mandated the PTC requirement in passenger-rail safety legislation. Railroads are facing a Dec. 31 deadline to implement PTC technology.

Many railroads have said they won’t be able to meet that deadline, although Amtrak has said it will have PTC implemented on the Northeast Corridor by then.

The Southwest Chief travels between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Missouri River Runner travels between St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.

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