The Federal Railroad Administration said its leaders have met this year with executives from all 41 railroads that are required to deploy collision-avoidance "positive train control" systems by yearend, and is now meeting with PTC suppliers to assess their ability to meet equipment demand.
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, the FRA said.
"It is the railroads' responsibility to meet the congressionally mandated PTC requirements," said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. "The FRA is committed to doing its part to ensure railroads and suppliers are working together to implement PTC systems."
Separately, Congress acted through its new government funding bill to help the process, by providing $250 million in new PTC implementation grants for 2018. (See related story.)
The agency said it hosted face-to-face meetings with rail executives between Jan. 2 and Feb. 14 to evaluate each railroad's PTC status and learn what remaining steps each needs to take.
And, "as a result of the meetings with railroads, FRA is now meeting with PTC suppliers to learn more about their capacity to meet the high demands for railroads' implementation of PTC systems in a timely manner."
The FRA said a status report for the 2017 fourth quarter showed that, as of Dec. 31, "PTC systems are in operation on approximately 56 percent of freight railroads' route miles that are required to be governed by PTC systems—up from 45 percent last quarter and 16 percent on December 31, 2016."
But passenger railroads "have made less progress," it said, with PTC systems in operation on only 24 percent of required route miles, unchanged from the third quarter.
The agency noted that all railroads subject to the congressionally required PTC mandate must implement FRA-certified and interoperable PTC systems by the end of this year. However, under the Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015, Congress also permitted railroads to request FRA's approval of an alternate schedule, with a deadline no later than December 31, 2020, for certain non-hardware, operational aspects.
The FRA added: "The latest data confirms that railroads continue to make progress in installing PTC system hardware, with 15 railroads reporting they have completed installation of all hardware necessary for PTC system implementation and another 11 railroads reporting they have installed over 80 [percent] of PTC system hardware. In addition, all but three railroads report having acquired sufficient [radio bandwidth] spectrum for their PTC system needs."
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