North County Transit District (NCTD) achieved full implementation of the federally-mandated positive train control (PTC) safety system for 58.5 miles of track it controls within the San Diego County portion of the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor (LOSSAN). NCTD is one of only four agencies across the country that has completed PTC implementation by the federally-mandated deadline of Dec. 31, 2018.
PTC is an integrated command, control, communications, and information system that alerts train engineers when certain unsafe conditions exist, and stops the train when conditions warrant. PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive train speed, train movements through misaligned track switches, and unauthorized train entry into work zones. This system increases the safety of all who use the rails.
On Sept. 21, 2018, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) provided conditional approval of NCTD’s PTC Safety Plan and conditionally certified the PTC system. At that time, NCTD was one of only 10 railroads in the nation to receive this conditional approval. The Safety Plan demonstrated to the FRA that NCTD’s PTC system met federal requirements and worked as designed.
FRA's conditional approval of this Safety Plan and PTC system enabled NCTD to begin interoperability testing with Metrolink, Amtrak, BNSF, and Pacific Sun Railroad to validate successful integration with NCTD’s system. Metrolink successfully completed testing and began Interoperable Revenue Service Operation (RSO) in October, followed by Amtrak, which began RSO in November. BNSF Railway completed testing and started RSO in early December, followed by Pacific Sun Railroad, which completed testing and commenced RSO on Dec. 27, 2018.
On Dec. 27, NCTD notified the FRA it had achieved full implementation of PTC based on its completion of testing to demonstrate interoperability between NCTD’s PTC system and all passenger and freight trains operating within the San Diego portion of the LOSSAN rail corridor. As of Dec. 31, all trains operating on the NCTD San Diego subdivision are operating with PTC protection.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires railroads to install PTC systems on tracks that carry passengers or toxic-by-inhalation materials. Based on a January 2012 final FRA rule, the Association of American Railroads estimates that PTC technology will be deployed on about 63,000 miles of U.S. freight rail lines.