Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak and PTC’

FRA Reports Continued Progress in PTC Implementation

August 2, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration reported this week that positive train control is in place on nearly 90 percent of the route miles subject to the federal mandate as of June.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory told a Senate committee that despite that progress there remains “significant work” to be done to fully implement PTC the end of 2020.

“Nonetheless, railroads must still complete significant work to full implement their PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2020, especially with respect to activating PTC systems on the remaining required main lines and achieving the necessary interoperability with their tenant railroads,” Batory said in his prepared statement.

Through the end of June PTC was in operation on 87 percent of the 58,000 route miles subject to the federal PTC mandate, based on preliminary reports railroads provide the FRA.

Batory told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that is a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

PTC systems are being tested in revenue service demonstration on at least 718 route miles.

Eleven freight railroads, 30 commuter railroads and Amtrak are subject to the PTC mandate.

Among the highlights of the latest PTC report are:

• Class I railroads report that PTC is in operation on 91 percent of their required main lines, which represented a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

• Host commuter railroads have PTC in revenue service on 443 route miles and in RSD testing on 718 route miles, which represented 37 percent of their 3,111 PTC-required route miles and a 12 percent increase since the first quarter.

• Amtrak, as a host railroad on and near the Northeast Corridor and other parts of the country, reported 899 of its 900 required route miles are governed by PTC. Operations are governed by PTC on 84 percent of route miles where Amtrak operates as a tenant on other railroads’ PTC-equipped main lines.

• Six short line or terminal railroads must implement PTC on their own main lines that provide or host regularly scheduled intercity or commuter passenger rail service. One of those six has been operating its FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system in revenue service since 2018, while the other five are conducting FRA-approved field testing of their PTC systems on the general rail network. They expect to begin RSD during the third quarter.

• Batory said host railroads reported 17 percent of tenant railroads that operate on their PTC-required main lines had achieved interoperability as of March 31.

• Host railroads also reported 33 percent of their applicable tenant railroads were installing PTC hardware and 38 percent had advanced to interoperability testing as of March 31.

“The FRA is currently directing its focus and resources to the PTC-mandated main lines that have a high concentration of host railroads and tenant railroads, including commuter railroads with significant remaining work, such as the PTC-mandated main lines in the Northeast, Chicago area, Florida and Texas,” Batory said.

PTC Now in Place on Cascades Route

March 27, 2019

Despite completion of a positive train control system on the Point Defiance route in Washington no date has been set for Amtrak to resume using it.

Amtrak used the route briefly in December 2018, but the first southbound Cascades train over the route derailed, killing three passengers aboard the train.

The Point Defiance route begins in Tacoma and rejoins the current route used by Amtrak at Nisqually, Washington.

News reports indicate that PTC is now in operation between Blaine, Washington, and Eugene, Oregon, which is used by Amtrak’s Cascades service.

Portions of the route also are used by the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight.

Amtrak Not Yet Committing to Keeping SW Chief Intact

February 2, 2019

Amtrak is not committing to keeping operation of its Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief intact beyond Sept. 30.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said there were “too many moving parts” to determine if the Chief will continue to operate over its current route.

Amtrak had talked last year about starting a bus bridge between Dodge City, Kansas, and Albuquerque in lieu of rail service.

The reasons given for that was because that segment of the route lacks a positive control system and Amtrak doesn’t want to pay to install it.

The bus bridge idea was dropped in the face of public and political opposition, but Amtrak has only committed to operating No. 3 and 4 over its current route through the end of the current federal fiscal year.

Amtrak to Match SW Chief Route Grant

January 12, 2019

The Rail Passengers Association reported this week that it has learned that Amtrak will provide matching funds for a federal grant to be used to install positive train control on a portion of the route of the Southwest Chief.

The $9.2 million CRISI grant was awarded to the departments of transportation of Kansas and Colorado in partnership with Amtrak and host railroad BNSF.

The grant money will pay for the design, installation, and testing of PTC on about 179 miles of the Chief’s route between Dodge City, Kansas, and Las Animas, Colorado.

The development appears to represent an about face by Amtrak, which had earlier refused to honor its agreement to provide $3 million in matching funds for a $16 million federal TIGER grant won by a New Mexico county for rebuilding the route of the Chief in that state.

The RPA said it doesn’t know the status of Amtrak’s matching funds for the TIGER grant but it continues to lobby the passenger carrier to honor its agreement.

The Southwest Chief operates daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Railroads Continue to Make PTC Progress, FRA Says

November 26, 2018

The latest positive train control implementation report by the Federal Railroad Administration shows that just five railroads are at risk of missing a Dec. 31 deadline with all five of them passenger operations.

The at-risk railroads as of Sept. 30 are Amtrak, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Altamont Corridor Express, New Jersey Transit and Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain).

The FRA said those carriers own or control about 1,302 of the 58,000 route miles subject to the PTC mandate.

In its latest report, the FRA said 24 railroads had installed all of their system hardware, 11 others had installed between 95 percent and 99 percent of the required hardware, and all railroads have acquired sufficient radio spectrum.

In a news release the FRA said more than three dozen freight and commuter railroads qualify for a two-year deadline extension because they have met statutory regulations.

The FRA considers any railroad that has installed less than 95 percent of system hardware to be at risk of not meeting either the Dec. 31, or the statutory extension criteria.

At the end of the third quarter of 2018, the FRA said, PTC was in operation on 71 percent of freight railroads’ required route miles and 26 percent of commuter railroads’ required route miles.

Amtrak Walks Back PTC ‘No Operation’ Pledge

September 17, 2018

Amtrak appears to have done an about face on an earlier vow to refuse to operate passenger trains on routes that lack an operating positive train control by Dec. 31.

During a hearing of a House committee, Amtrak Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek said the carrier will seek a deadline extension from the Federal Railroad Administration in order to operate all its trains.

Naparstek told the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials that Amtrak decided to seek the extension because of interoperability issues with other railroads that operate on Amtrak tracks and with railroads whose tracks Amtrak uses.

“When 2019 arrives, we will have our track, computer, training and locomotive PTC work complete and will be operating PTC across all of the tracks we control and across much of the host railroad network,” Naparstek said.

Naparstek said 222 of Amtrak’s 315 daily trains now operate with PTC on some or all of their routes. That figure is expected to rise to 283 by Dec. 31 when the railroad industry faces a federal deadline to implement PTC or qualify for an extension of up to two years.

Amtrak is studying how it might operate on rail lines that do not have PTC in place by next January.

Naparstek said the carrier’s goal is to continue to operate all its current routes.

“Exactly how we accomplish this will vary across our network, based on the specifics of each route,” he said. “But . . . we believe we will have strategies in place that will permit us to continue operations until operational PTC or PTC-equivalency is achieved for all our network.”

He describes the interoperability of PTC whereby the PTC equipment of one railroad works on another railroad’s routes, as a work in progress.

In a follow-up statement, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said, “The testimony makes it clear Amtrak is planning to operate the current network in the coming fiscal year, with additional safety actions for some segments, as we strive for the goal of positive train control or an equivalent on all our routes.”

That suggests that Amtrak will not discontinue operating trains that use routes that lack a fully functioning PTC system.

Naperstek also said Amtrak is working with tenant railroads on the Northeast Corridor and other Amtrak-owned lines to ensure that they are able to maintain their operations.

“Our aim is to ensure that all of our tenants have an operational system as soon as possible,” he said. “We are mindful of the impacts that any disruption of commuter service may have on the regions we serve and the potential safety consequences that could follow.”

In progress report, Naperstek said that through Sept. 10, Amtrak had installed PTC systems on  88 of its locomotives required for revenue service.

Furthermore, 122 of 142 installations have been made on 114 state-owned locomotives and cab cars that Amtrak operates or maintains.

He also said that 53 units are being tested and are PTC operable; eight of 11 installation/track segments have been completed; 132 of 140 radio towers are fully installed and equipped; all employees required to be trained in PTC operations have been trained; 607 of 901 route-miles are in PTC operation, and 480 route-miles are in testing.

Naperstek’s testimony was in contrast to the remarks of Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson during a February House Railroad Subcommittee hearing at which Anderson said Amtrak would not operate trains on lines not equipped with fully operational PTC in 2019 if its host freight railroads failed to meet the Dec. 31 interim deadline for installation. He also said that Amtrak would prohibit non-PTC-compliant equipment from operating on the lines it owns, primarily on the Northeast Corridor.

Point Defiance PTC Testing Begins

September 17, 2018

Testing began last weekend of the positive train control system on the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

The route is used by commuter trains serving Seattle-Tacoma and is expected to be used by Amtrak starting next spring.

Amtrak began using the line last December but on the first day of operation a southbound Cascades train derailed near DuPont, Washington, killing three passengers.

Investigators have said the train was speeding as it entered a curve.

Amtrak officials subsequently said the carrier would use its original route between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington, until the PTC system had been placed in service.

Agency Says Downeaster Will Continue Operating

August 30, 2018

The agency overseeing Amtrak’s Downeaster service said rail service will continue even though a portion of the train is exempt from a federal law mandating that passenger routes have a positive train control system in place by the end of the year.

“Amtrak has gone through a review of all lines, even those that aren’t required to have [positive train control], and conducted safety assessments and there are no risks associated with the Downeaster line,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. “The route is not in jeopardy at all.”

Amtrak operates the Downeaster line, which links Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Quinn said segments of the line received an exemption from the Federal Railroad Administration because the line sees fewer than 12 trips per day.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an [Federal Rail Authority]-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-byroute basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Quinn said the New England rail authority is “not considering” installing the technology at this time.

PTC Expected to be Running in Cascades Corridor

August 29, 2018

Positive train control is expected to be in operation on the Point Defiance Byass route in Washington state by the end of the year, Amtrak and the Washington Department of Transportation said this week.

The two added that PTC should be operation on the entire Cascades corridor as well.

Amtrak had started using the Point Defiance Bypass last December, but a southbound Cascades train derailed on the first day of service on the route, resulting in three passengers being killed and dozens injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board has indicated in a preliminary finding that the Amtrak train was speeding through a curve at the time of the derailment.

The Point Defiance Bypass runs through Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont.

Amtrak expects to begin using the route in spring 2019. WSDOT said that will give officials an opportunity to monitor the performance of the PTC system along the Cascades route.

“Amtrak, Sound Transit and BNSF are all working together to ensure PTC is operating seamlessly in the entire Pacific Northwest and they are confident they will meet the Dec. 31, 2018, federal deadline for implementation in our region,” officials said in a statement.

Amtrak Rips PTC Report

August 29, 2018

Amtrak has taken issue with a story posted Monday on the website of Trains magazine, calling it inaccurate.

The story cited second-hand sources as saying that Amtrak Vice President Stephen Gardner said at a meeting in New Mexico last week that Amtrak will not operate over routes lacking positive train control after Dec. 31, 2018.

The Trains story extrapolated from that that as many as eight trains could be in jeopardy because parts of their routes are unlikely to have PTC in operation by that date.

In a statement released Tuesday Amtrak sought to clarify its stance on operating on routes that fail to have PTC in place by the Dec. 31 deadline mandated in federal law:

“Where PTC is not implemented and operational, it is expected that nearly all carriers will qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule under law.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an FRA-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network.

“For those very limited routes where a host may not achieve an alternative schedule by year’s end, Amtrak will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance.”

The statement does not address whether any of the routes identified by Trains have segments that will lack “an alternative schedule” by the end of the year.

Amtrak told the Rail Passengers Association that it would have denied the reporter had the Trains reporter sought comment from the carrier.