Positive Train Control (PTC)
“Positive Train Control (PTC) is a highly advanced safety system designed to automatically stop or slow a train to prevent collisions or derailments. Virginia Railway Express (VRE) expects to be fully PTC compliant by the end of 2018. Currently, we are working with our implementation team, consisting of contractors and VRE staff, to complete required training, install communications networks and implement a system for crew initialization. VRE is also coordinating with our host railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, system interoperability and field testing to be completed later this year.”
What is Positive Train Control (PTC)?
Positive Train Control (PTC) is a processor-based/communication-based control system designed to prevent railway accidents. PTC technology is designed to automatically control train speeds and movements should an engineer not take suitable action for a given situation.
For example, PTC can avert a potential collision by bringing a train to a stop before it passes a signal with a stop indication or before it diverges on an improperly lined switch.
PTC systems reliably and functionally prevent:
- Train-to-train collisions
- Overspeed derailments
- Movement into an established work zone
- Advancing through a main line switch in the improper position
PTC systems also allow for equipped locomotives crossing another railroad’s PTC-equipped territories to communicate with and respond to that railroad’s PTC system, including uninterrupted movements over property boundaries.
Congress requires Class I railroads and entities that provide regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation to implement PTC systems by December 31, 2018.
It is estimated this equates to approximately 60,000 miles of track and will involve approximately 20,000 locomotives nationwide. If some key implementation and installation milestones are met, railroads may be eligible to obtain an extension of no later than December 31, 2020 to complete certain non-hardware, operational aspects of PTC system implementation, subject to the Secretary of Transportation's approval.
The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a status this spring on both passenger and freight railroads’ progress implementing positive train control (PTC) systems in the fourth quarter of 2016. The latest data, current as of December 31, 2016, confirms freight railroads now have PTC active on 16 percent of tracks required to be equipped with PTC systems. Passenger railroads are currently at 24 percent.
Due in large part to Amtrak’s significant progress on PTC, 41percent of passenger railroads’ locomotives are now fully equipped with PTC technology. Freight railroads’ percentage of locomotives fully equipped with PTC technology rose to 42 percent. “We continue to closely monitor railroads’ progress implementing Positive Train Control,” said Patrick Warren, FRA Executive Director. “With less than two years remaining to complete the implementation process, it is imperative that railroads continue to meet implementation milestones.”
VRE anticipates meeting the December 31, 2018 deadline.