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Association of American Railroads says GAO report underscores need for PTC extension

Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger said today that the released report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms what freight and passenger railroads have been saying for years: Congress needs to extend the deadline for installation of positive train control (PTC).

The GAO review examined the rail industry's PTC implementation progress and challenges, and identified the complexities associated with developing, installing and testing the technology.  

"The GAO report reinforces the freight rail industry's contention that PTC is an extremely complex technology that requires more time to install and safely test," Hamberger said. "Freight rail operators have always contended that the Congressionally mandated 2015 deadline for having PTC fully functional and being used coast to coast by passenger and freight rail alike was not realistic.

"But the fact that can't be ignored is that time is quickly running out for taking action to extend the deadline and avoid the dire consequences of not doing so. American businesses that use rail to move their goods and people that depend on rail to travel and get to work every day need to know they can count on Congress to do the right thing."  

Hamberger, the nation's top freight rail industry representative, has alerted more than 40 U.S. trade associations representing myriad industries that depend on efficient and reliable rail transportation to the potential for service shutdowns and major disruptions should Congress fail to extend the deadline by the end of October.  

"Railroads are beginning to notify their customers of the possibility of an impending rail shutdown as they, too, have to prepare for such a worst-case scenario," Hamberger said. "Congress can't wait until November or December when the clock is about to run out. If lawmakers want to avert a massive disruption of passenger and freight transport this fall, which will inflict significant hardships on businesses and passengers alike, it must take action now to extend the deadline." When Congress mandated installation of PTC it set an arbitrary deadline of December 31, 2015that did not reflect the unprecedented challenges required to deploy this new technology safely and responsibly. Under current law, PTC is required for approximately 60,000 route miles on lines that transport passengers or certain types of hazardous materials. The industry has made major strides developing PTC. In its most recent report to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), AAR said the following will be completed by the end of 2015:

  • More than 14 percent of the 60,000 route miles will have PTC
  •  31 percent of locomotives will be PTC equipped,
  •  69 percent of wayside units and 63 percent of base station radios will have been installed; and
  • One-third of 114,515 railroad employees will be PTC trained.

"The freight rail industry remains absolutely committed to fully implementing PTC," Hamberger said. "While the industry has spent more than $5.7 billion to date and has made substantial progress on PTC, much work remains to be done. Extending the deadline for completing installation until 2018, with additional time for testing and validation, will allow the industry to deploy PTC in a safe and effective manner and simply is the right thing to do."