The Federal Railroad Administration is prepared to levy penalties against 13 railroads if they fail to implement positive train control or PTC safety systems by Dec. 31 this year.
According to news reports, the agency said it would issue $27,904 in fines per violation to railroads that fail to meet PTC installation “milestones,” especially after it made $250 million worth of grant funding available on May 15 to “help spur the installation” of PTC technology for intercity passenger rail transportation, freight rail transportation, and commuter rail passenger transportation.
FRA also noted in a 25-page report delivered to Congress July 1 that PTC systems are in operation on approximately 60 percent of freight railroad route miles that require the technology, whereas for the passenger railroad sector, PTC is operation on only 25 percent of the required route miles.
“Railroad implementation of PTC systems is at the top of our agenda and represents the most fundamental change in rail safety technology since the introduction of automatic train control 100 years ago,” stressed FRA Administrator Ronald Batory in his prepared remarks for the 2018 American Public Transportation Association Rail Conference in Denver, Colorado, June 12.
“This technology is something I think about when I go to bed at night and when I wake up in the morning,” he said. “As most of you know, PTC is designed to prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and trains from being routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position. In other words, PTC is designed to avert accidents caused by human error.”
Batory emphasized that FRA would take a “hands-on approach” to ensure that 41 major U.S. railroads – including 29 intercity passenger railroads and Amtrak – acquire, install, test, and certify PTC systems in time to meet the mandated deadline of Dec. 31 this year; a compliance date Congress already extended from its original Dec. 31, 2015 deadline.
FRA is also still planning to host the last of three PTC-focused symposiums designed to provide guidance to the railroad industry. That third and final symposium, to be held August 20, will cover lessons learned and best practices for PTC Safety Plans, which are necessary for host railroads to obtain PTC System Certification from FRA and to achieve full PTC system implementation under the statutory mandate.