Railroad Progress on Positive Train Control Implementation (Learn More)

The Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a status update on railroads’ progress implementing positive train control (PTC) systems in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The status update, based on railroad-submitted quarterly data, shows freight railroads continue to make consistent progress while passenger industry progress in installing and activating the life-saving technology only slightly increased.

The latest data, current as of December 31, 2016, confirms freight railroads now have PTC active on just 16 percent of tracks required to be equipped with PTC systems—up from 12 percent last quarter.  made less progress—with a slight increase to 24 percent from 23 percent.

(CNN’s Chris Frates reports goes inside the engineer’s cabin of a passenger train to learn how technology is used to prevent crashes and derailments, May 14, 2015. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube)

Due in large part to Amtrak’s significant progress on PTC, 41 percent of passenger railroads’ locomotives are now fully equipped with PTC technology, compared to 29 percent the previous quarter.

Freight railroads’ percentage of locomotives fully equipped with PTC technology rose to 42 percent, up from 38 percent.

Patrick Warren, FRA Executive Director
Patrick Warren, FRA Executive Director

“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.”

PTC systems are designed to prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and trains going to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.

Congress requires Class I railroads and entities providing regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation to implement PTC systems by December 31, 2018.

Only if some key implementation and installation milestones are met may railroads be eligible to obtain a limited extension to complete certain non-hardware, operational aspects of PTC system implementation no later than December 31, 2020, subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s approval.

Image courtesy of GAO

The fourth quarter status update includes railroad-by-railroad quarterly data on track segments completed, locomotives equipped, employees trained, radio towers installed, route miles in PTC operation, and other key implementation data. (See the infographics below.)

Since 2008, when Congress first mandated PTC system implementation on certain railroad main lines, FRA has provided significant assistance to support railroads’ PTC system implementation.

Those efforts include:

  • Providing more than $716 million in grants to support railroads’ implementation of PTC systems, including nearly $400 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding and $25 million in fiscal year 2016 Railroad Safety Technology Program funding
  • Issuing a nearly $1 billion loan to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to implement PTC systems on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad;
  • Announcing the availability of $199 million in grants to commuter railroads and state and local governments in fiscal year 2017 for PTC system implementation;
  • Building a PTC testbed at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado;
  • Working directly with the Federal Communications Commission and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to improve the approval process for PTC communication towers; and
  • Dedicating staff to work on PTC implementation, including establishing a PTC task force.

Freight and passenger rail 4th quarter PTC summary
To see the interactive graphic of freight and passenger railroads’ overall PTC implementation progress, visit https://www.fra.dot.gov/app/ptcsummary/

Railroads 4th quarter PTC summary
You may view the interactive graphic of each railroad’s PTC implementation progress, at https://www.fra.dot.gov/app/ptc/

FRA logo

To view the public version of each railroad’s full Quarterly PTC Progress Report, please visit: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0628