John Phelan

John Phelan

Pan Am Southern LLC (PAS) and Pan Am Railways (PAR) served default and dispute notices concerning important operational safety agreements with Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA).

A 2014 agreement between the two railroads and MBTA was intended to enable a Positive Train Control (PTC) system to be in place by the federal deadline of Dec. 31, 2018. This safety system would be compliant with federal law and appropriate to the joint passenger and freight rail services conducted over the eastern Massachusetts area. In the notice released this week, PAS and PAR report that MBTA has disavowed the 2014 agreement, raising questions about the three railroads’ ability to implement PTC on Boston-area rail lines by the federal deadline. This throws into doubt the continuation of commuter service on those lines beyond that date, according to the two freight lines.  

In addition to providing service across its own lines, MBTA performs commuter service over properties owned by PAS. The 2014 PTC agreement governs the installation of PTC over all of the jointly-operated MBTA, PAS, and PAR lines. The agreement was the result of several years of cooperative discussions, plans, and submissions by MBTA to federal agencies (both for regulatory compliance and financial support purposes). The 2014 agreement also covers installation of locomotive equipment that would be necessary for operations for PAS and PAR freight rail service in the Commonwealth.

Since execution of the 2014 agreement, PAS and PAR have acted in reliance on the agreement to ensure safe and compliant passenger services. MBTA repeatedly has progressed and affirmed plans for PTC installation in accordance with the agreement, including in its 2016 Annual PTC Implementation Progress Report submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration. PAS and PAR are concerned that MBTA’s recent disavowal could set back design and implementation of an integrated PTC system by several years, creating uncertainty about compliance with the federal mandate and the continuation of passenger services, according to a joint PAS and PAR release.

PAS and PAR strongly believe the best path forward lies in reaffirmation of the 2014 PTC agreement and building on the efforts PAS, PAR, and MBTA have taken since PTC was mandated. PAS and PAR pledge to work cooperatively with MBTA to implement a joint freight/passenger PTC system as soon as possible.

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