Management & Operations

GAO: Rail operators years behind schedule implementing PTC

Posted on September 18, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that two-thirds of the railroads they reviewed have said they will not complete the installation positive train control (PTC) before the looming Dec. 31, 2015, deadline, with most somewhere between one and five years behind, The Hill reported.

To view the full report, click here.

Lawmakers have moved to extend the federal deadline for railroad companies to install PTC, but the effort stalled after a deadly Philadelphia Amtrak crash in May that killed multiple passengers. Freight and passenger rail companies have warned Congress that they will likely have to shut down traffic on major train corridors throughout the country unless lawmakers pass an extension of the deadline this fall. For the full story, click here.

American Public Transportation Association President/CEO Michael Melaniphy released the following statement regarding the GAO’s report:

“A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released yesterday provides strong evidence that Congress needs to act now to extend the deadline beyond December 31, 2015 for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) for the nation's railroads.

Safety is the number one priority of the public transportation industry and the commuter railroads are 100 percent committed to developing and installing PTC technology. Therefore it is our goal that this technology and its many components are developed, installed, and tested successfully and safely.

As this objective GAO analysis shows, despite the commuter rail industry's best efforts, implementing PTC nationwide by the end of this year is not possible, which is why Congress should look to provide for an extension as soon as possible.

The report supports what the industry, the Federal Railroad Administration and the GAO have said in the past: significant challenges of technology, spectrum, and funding make the end of year deadline unattainable. These challenges still remain and APTA has shared the specific challenges commuter railroads are facing with the Senate and House Committee leaders.

We support efforts in Congress to craft an extension that would provide for the full effective interoperable implementation of this life-saving technology.

We are also dedicated to working with Congress in appropriating the funding to assist the industry complying with this essential safety mandate. The commuter rail industry has currently invested $950 million on PTC implementation and conservative estimates are that $3.48 billion is needed to complete the rollout nationwide. Currently, Congress has only appropriated $50 million for this critical federal safety technology.

Congress should also take action to make the necessary spectrum available to those commuter railroads that have been unable to acquire it to date, as access to communications spectrum is controlled by the license holders, and as such not within the control of our public commuter agencies.

The time is now for Congress to act to extend the PTC deadline. This action is crucial to avoid the disruption of millions of Americans who rely daily on commuter rail service as they commute to and from work."

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