Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak and PTC’

FRA Says PTC Deadline Has Been Met

December 30, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week that all railroads required to do so have met the deadline for installation and implementation of positive train control.

PTC is in operation on all of the 57,536 routes miles required to have it.

This includes rail lines that handle intercity or commuter passengers on a regular basis, certain hazardous materials, and Class 1 railroad mainlines that see more than 5 million gross tons of annual traffic.

The mandate for the installation of PTC was part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

Federal law gave the railroad industry a deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, to install and place PTC systems into operation.

In a news release, the FRA said this meant the FRA had certified not only that PTC was in operation but also that PTC systems had achieved interoperability.

This means a PTC system used by a tenant railroad such as Amtrak is compatible with the PTC system of a host railroad such as CSX.

PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, work-zone accidents, and incidents involving improperly lined switches.

Implementation of PTC involved seven Class I railroads, Amtrak, 28 commuter railroads, and five other freight railroads that host regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger service.

Also involved in the effort were industry associations, suppliers and other service providers who have been working for more than a decade to develop, install, test and oversee the operation of PTC systems.

FRA certification means a PTC system complies with the required technical requirements contained in federal law or FRA regulations.

Most railroads have been in compliance with federal law and regulations for several months with 99.6 percent of those affected by the PTC mandate having complied by the end of the third quarter of this year.

Amtrak OIG Says PTC Systems Could be More Reliable

December 18, 2020

The Amtrak Office of Inspector General reported this week that the passenger railroad expects to achieve positive train control interoperability with its host railroads by the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline, but can take steps to better ensure its systems are reliable.

The OIG said Amtrak faces two risks that may diminish PTC’s safety benefits.

These include a lack of electronic tools to easily access data needed for it and the Federal Railroad Administration to monitor PTC system performance.

This means reports on reliability are incomplete and the processes to manually compile PTC data are inefficient and error-prone.

The OIG said the risks involve Amtrak’s practices when PTC systems do not initialize before a train leaves a station or disengages while en route.

The report said Amtrak does not consistently follow the stringent practices for PTC malfunctions that will be required by the FRA as of Jan. 1, 2020, and that data input processes contain a risk of human error.

The report noted that Amtrak achieved full implementation of its PTC systems last August

The OIG review found at least twice as many reliability incidents in a month than Amtrak officials identified after reviewing the same source of information.

As a result, the OIG report concluded, “reports on PTC reliability are incomplete and Amtrak cannot easily identify potential problems it may need to address promptly or longer-term.”

Although Amtrak officials acknowledged the need for electronic tools, they told the OIG “they have not fully researched available options because they have been focused on meeting the implementation deadline.”

Amtrak officials also cited funding constraints because of the pandemic.

Amtrak has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars” in PTC, including about $370 million from fiscal years 2008 through 2020, according to the report.

The passenger carrier has three PTC systems including the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System used on the Northeast Corridor and connecting corridors it owns; Incremental Train Control System in Michigan; and Interoperable Electronic Train Management System onboard locomotives that operate on freight railroads where it is a tenant.

Amtrak Completes PTC Installation, Training

August 14, 2020

Amtrak said this week that is has now completed installation of positive train control on 898 miles of track that it owns as well as all of its locomotives.

The last Amtrak-owned track to get PTC was a one-mile segment in its Chicago terminal.

The carrier said it continues to work with its host railroads and tenant railroads to implement PTC interoperability.

Amtrak said its progress includes equipping all 550 of its locomotives with an operable PTC system, completing installation of PTC on 11 track segments and erecting 160 radio towers.

All Amtrak employees required to be trained in PTC operations have completed their training.

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.