The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released its quarterly status update on railroads’ self-reported progress, as of Sept. 30, toward fully implementing positive train control (PTC) systems by the end of this year, as required by Congress. All railroads subject to the statutory mandate are currently operating PTC systems in revenue service or in advanced field testing, known as revenue service demonstration (RSD). As of Sept. 30, PTC technology remains to be activated on approximately 223 required route miles, based on railroads’ Third Quarter 2020 PTC Progress Reports, which were due October 31.
“Full implementation of PTC is in sight, owing to everyone’s unparalleled cooperation and determination,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “I’m incredibly proud of the intensive collaborations we have forged. Once complete, railroads, rail workers, and rail passengers will all benefit from this transformational accomplishment in railroad safety.”
As of Sept. 30, PTC systems were in RSD or in operation on approximately 57,314 route miles — 99.6% of the 57,537 route miles subject to the mandate. This represents a 0.8 percentage point increase since the second quarter of 2020 and indicates that PTC technology was activated on an additional 468 miles during the third quarter. As previously reported, PTC systems are currently governing operations on all PTC-mandated main lines owned or controlled by Class I railroads and other freight host railroads. Based on railroads’ third quarter reports, 92.3% of commuter railroads’ mandated route miles are governed by PTC technology — a 16.2 percentage point increase since the last quarter. In addition, Amtrak reports that, as of Sept. 30, a PTC system is now in operation on all PTC-mandated main lines Amtrak owns or controls — a 0.03 percentage point increase since FRA’s last status update.
In addition, railroads have made additional gains toward completing interoperability testing and meeting the interoperability requirements under the statute and FRA’s regulations. As of the third quarter, host railroads reported that interoperability has been achieved by 84% of the 219 applicable, host-tenant railroad relationships — an 18.6 percentage point increase since the second quarter of 2020.
Based on the criteria FRA utilizes to evaluate the risk of noncompliance, FRA currently considers one railroad, New Jersey Transit (NJT), at risk of not fully implementing PTC technology on all its required main lines by Dec. 31. Specifically, NJT reports that, as of Sept. 30, it is operating a PTC system in RSD on approximately 48% of its 375.9 PTC-mandated route miles. FRA continues to direct additional resources and technical assistance to NJT, including on-site support to oversee and expedite testing and RSD. FRA’s leadership and PTC specialists meet with NJT multiple times each month to provide advice regarding its schedule and the remaining actions NJT must take to fully implement an FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system on NJT’s required main lines by the statutory deadline. Furthermore, FRA regularly sends correspondence to NJT, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and NJT’s major PTC system vendors and suppliers to underscore the importance of timely PTC system implementation.
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