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December 2017
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Rail industry reinforces commitment, acknowledges challenges to implementing PTC

Following the National Transportation Safety Board’s inclusion of positive train control (PTC) as one of its “most wanted” safety initiatives for 2013, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reinforced the railroad industry’s commitment to implementing PTC but recognized significant challenges remain to doing so. Implementation of PTC on the scale required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 has not been done anywhere in the world. So far railroads have spent more than $1.5 billion in private capital to try to implement the technology by the 2015 deadline. “Freight railroads remain committed to implementing PTC and are doing all they can to address the challenges that have surfaced as implementation moves forward,” said Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO of AAR. The federal mandate requires that PTC systems must be fully interoperable— or able to seamlessly operate on all railroads’ systems. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and railroads have been working together to find solutions to technical challenges in order to meet the 2015 deadline. However, the FRA, railroads and others have acknowledged that unresolved issues make that date unrealistic. “The mandate and implementation of PTC is an unprecedented undertaking and, despite nearly a decade of research and development, still faces significant hurdles to deployment,” said Hamberger. The PTC system being designed and implemented by the railroads and suppliers is being created from scratch and must allow each individual railroad to safely operate on every other carrier’s network. “Implementing a technology like this, with so many players, has never been done before,” Hamberger said. According to the FRA, the freight rail industry is on pace for the safest year on record. FRA data shows train accidents have declined 15.2 percent through August 2012, compared with the same period last year, while collisions are down 21.6 percent and derailments are down 13.3 percent. The number of yard accidents also dropped 9.6 percent, while the total number of railroad employee fatalities declined to 14 from 18 in the January-August period. Fatalities at highway-railroad grade crossings also dropped 13.5 percent through August. To learn more about how the freight rail industry makes safety its top priority, visit: