FRA holds first of six PTC Collaboration Sessions

USDOT and FRA reiterate that they will work with railroads to see them successfully implement PTC by 2020.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Feb. 6 held the first of six Positive Train Control (PTC) Collaboration Sessions it will convene throughout 2019.

The collaboration sessions involve all of the railroads responsible for implementing PTC and mark a turning point in the administration’s’ outreach efforts. Railroads had until Dec. 31, 2018 to meet a series of criteria in order to qualify for an alternative schedule to have PTC implemented by Dec. 31, 2020. All railroads met the statutory deadline with four reaching full implementation of PTC by the end of 2018

The first session saw FRA  safety specialists outline the key steps that the railroad industry must accomplish over the next two years to achieve full implementation of interoperable PTC systems. FRA outlined its approach to certifying railroads’ PTC systems and railroads using different types of PTC systems provided an update on best practices and lessons learned. There was also an opportunity for the railroads to ask technical and regulatory questions of the assembled FRA experts. 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao provided remarks at the event and noted that the collaboration sessions will provide a key opportunity to share information and best practices and tap the resources and expertise of the FRA’s PTC team.

“Much work remains to be done over the next 23 months. The adoption of PTC systems is the most fundamental change in our country’s rail safety technology since the introduction of automatic train control nearly 100 years ago,” said Secretary Chao. 

She recognized that some railroads will face hard choices regarding resource allocation during the next two years with some placing PTC ahead of other capital needs as the industry wrestles with the challenges associated with interoperability.

“The department understands these challenges, and will do whatever it can to help you succeed. The department has made funding for PTC available through both its grant and loan programs. In addition, FRA has taken steps to ensure it has the necessary human resources to respond to your needs and turn critical documents around in a timely fashion. And FRA will continue to collaborate with you in forums like these, and on an individual basis. Safety is our number one priority. So we are here to help you succeed,” said Secretary Chao. 

FRA notes that in 2018 alone, it made $250 million in grant funding available for PTC implementation, and the department has awarded more than $470 million since 2017 through both FRA and FTA grants.

“The role that railroads play in our country cannot be overstated.  You are part of the backbone of our transportation system, which underpins the competitiveness of our economy and is critical to our country’s quality of life, as well,” said Secretary Chao. “I look forward to our continued collaboration over the next two years. You can count on the department to be there with you every step of the way, helping you cross the finish line to successful, and full, PTC implementation.”

Article by Mischa Wanek-Libman for masstransitmag.com

Updated: February 7, 2019 — 10:52 AM

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