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Rail News: Positive Train Control

Activation on BNSF subdivisions is Amtrak’s first host-owned territory implemented with PTC.

Amtrak, in coordination with BNSF Railway Co., will implement positive train control (PTC) over several BNSF-owned subdivisions this week, which will mark the first activation on host-owned territory used by Amtrak.

Subdivisions that serve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and California Zephyr routes are the first to roll out the technology, with full PTC activation on BNSF-owned track expected by the end of August, Amtrak and BNSF officials said in a press release.

“Amtrak’s highest priority is ensuring the safety of our passengers, our crews and the communities we serve, and full implementation of PTC will make the entire network safer,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President of Safety Ken Hylander. “While we are excited to achieve this milestone, we must continue to work together to activate PTC and make the national railroad network safer.”

Said BNSF Assistant VP of Network Control Systems Chris Matthews: “This is a great step for Amtrak. We have the infrastructure in place that allows them to operate on our network. We have partnered with them on the federal mandate and in some cases beyond the federal mandate to install PTC on subdivisions not required of BNSF.”

Amtrak is on track to achieve PTC installation and operation across the network it controls by the federally mandated deadline of Dec. 31, and is working with its railroad partners throughout the industry to advance this system on host infrastructure, Amtrak officials said.

Where PTC is not implemented and operational, it is expected that nearly all carriers will qualify for an extended PTC implementation schedule under law. For those carriers and routes operating under an extension beyond the Dec. 31 deadline, Amtrak is analyzing and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-by-route basis to ensure there is a single level of safety across Amtrak’s network by Jan. 1, 2019.

“For those very limited routes where a host may not achieve an alternative schedule by year’s end, Amtrak will suspend service and may seek alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance,” Amtrak officials said.

Additionally, Amtrak is working with tenant railroads that operate over its infrastructure as they make sure they have sufficient PTC-commissioned rolling stock by the deadline to operate normal service, they said.

Amtrak’s progress in implementing PTC across the routes and equipment it controls includes the following:
• 380 of 444 Amtrak-owned locomotives are fully equipped and PTC operable;
• Eight of 11 installation/track segments are completed;
• 104 of 120 radio towers are fully installed and equipped;
• 95 percent of employees who require training to support PTC operations have completed training; and
• 607 of 900 route miles are in PTC operation.