VRE Will Suspend Service Without PTC Extension

For Release:  October 21, 2015
Contact: Bryan Jungwirth, Director of Public Affairs & Government Relations
(703) 838-5416 office
(571) 238-9084 cell

Alexandria, VA. – The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) will be forced to suspend some, if not all, of its commuter rail service in Virginia and Washington D.C. after December 31, 2015 if Congress does not act to extend the deadline for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC).  The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) requires passenger rail service and freight trains carrying certain hazardous materials to have PTC operational by December 31, 2015.  Yesterday, VRE received official notification from one of its host railroads, Norfolk Southern Railway (NSR), that because PTC will not be fully operational on their railroad by the deadline, VRE passenger trains will not be permitted to operate on NSR tracks after December 31. This would affect all Manassas Line trains. It is likely service on the Fredericksburg Line will also be suspended without a PTC extension.   The Northern Virginia and Potomac & Rappahannock Transportation Commissions, owners of VRE, will be considering this issue at their November 5, 2015 meetings.

Doug Allen, Chief Executive Officer of VRE said “Safety is VRE’s top priority and we are fully committed to implementing PTC.   Despite the hard work and dedication by all involved, more time is needed.  We’ve been briefing our Congressional delegation since July and they are fully supportive of extending the PTC deadline.  It is vitally important that the extension is approved soon.”

VRE is spending $10.5 million to implement PTC, which includes installing on-board computers and radio equipment on its locomotives and cab cars.  VRE anticipates substantially completing PTC equipment installations by year-end.  However, VRE operates on tracks owned by CSX Transportation and NSR.  PTC work on those railroads will not be completed by the deadline. 

“PTC is a set of highly advanced technologies designed to automatically stop a train before train-to-train collisions; derailments caused by excessive speed; unauthorized incursions by trains where maintenance activities are taking place; and movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.  VRE already possesses technologies that limit train operating speeds by engaging automatic braking if a train exceeds maximum authorized speed limits. 

About the Virginia Railway Express (VRE)

VRE is the tenth largest commuter rail service in the U.S. and is a transportation partnership of the Northern Virginia and Potomac & Rappahannock Transportation Commissions.  VRE’s mission is to provide safe, cost effective, accessible, reliable, convenient, and customer responsive commuter-oriented rail passenger service. It provides over 4.5 million rides annually in northern Virginia and Washington D.C. and its offices are based in Alexandria, VA.  Visit our website at: