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Commuter Rail Makes Strong Progress on PTC

U.S. commuter rail agencies are making strong and continuous progress toward installing and implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), according to an APTA analysis announced at an Aug. 14 media event.

These advances, as of June 30, 2018, reflect the commuter rail industry’s ongoing commitment to safety and to implementing PTC by the statutory deadline.

APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas; Jeffrey D. Knueppel, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia and chair of APTA’s Commuter Rail PTC Subcommittee; and Jim Derwinski, chief executive officer/executive director of Metra in Chicago, participated in the conference call.

Skoutelas offered a progress update on PTC installation and emphasized that PTC is “a critical overlay” on top of an already safe commuter rail industry. He noted that rail travel is the safest surface transportation mode and said that traveling by commuter rail or intercity rail is “18 times safer than traveling by automobile.”

“Every year, 30 commuter railroads across America safely carry passengers on 501 million trips,” continued Skoutelas. “With safety as our number one priority, commuter railroads are making strong and continuous progress in implementing Positive Train Control,” he said, noting that “commuter rail systems are fully committed to implementing PTC.”

Knueppel pointed out that no two rail systems are the same, so no two PTC experiences are going to be alike. What they do have in common, he emphasized, is a “shared commitment to safety.”

“Positive Train Control is a critical commuter rail safety enhancement,” he continued. “Implementing PTC at SEPTA, during a challenging period of capital funding, has been an authority-wide commitment. Throughout this effort, our in-house team has been working continuously with Amtrak, our freight partners and third-party contractors to address technical and interoperability challenges.”

Knueppel noted that trains on all 13 SEPTA Regional Rail Lines are equipped and operating with PTC and said his agency is “proud to have implemented this safety technology for our customers and employees.” SEPTA, he said, has already invested $337 million to implement PTC.

Derwinski said Metra shares the industry’s commitment to implement “this very complicated but very important safety system.” He explained that implementing PTC in Chicago’s “dense and busy railroad network has been very challenging, but Metra is right where we said we’d be in terms of finishing the job.”

He continued, “Working with our freight partners, we expect to have PTC implemented or in revenue service demonstration on six of our 11 lines by the end of 2018, and to complete the job by 2020.” Derwinski estimated that Metra will spend approximately $400 million by the time the agency is finished installing PTC.

Under current law, commuter railroads are required to meet the following milestones by Dec. 31, 2018:

* Installed all PTC hardware (wayside and onboard equipment); * Acquired all necessary spectrum for PTC implementation;
* Completed all employee training;
* Initiated testing on at least one territory subject to the PTC requirement (or other criteria); and
* Submitted a plan and schedule to the Secretary of Transportation for implementing a PTC system.

Once these milestones are reached by the end of 2018, commuter railroads must implement PTC as soon as practicable and no later than Dec. 31, 2020.

APTA noted that, at a time when the national transit state of good repair backlog is an estimated $90 billion, the commuter railroad industry’s cost to implement PTC will exceed $4.1 billion, diverting funds from other critical infrastructure priorities. Since Congress mandated PTC, the federal government has awarded $272 million in PTC grants, with an additional $250 million made available in May 2018.

APTA has created a special PTC website with more information. Click here.


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