Canadian National Railway (CN) announced that all 35 of its U.S subdivisions successfully met the federal requirement to operate Positive Train Control (PTC). This achievement comes 13 months ahead of the December 2020 deadline.
It is the largest technology program deployed in CN history.
“This milestone is a testament to the tenacious dedication of our CN railroading family,” said Rob Reilly, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It has been a tremendous journey, full of challenges and obstacles we overcame.”
PTC is a safety overlay designed to prevent accidents relating to human error such as over-speed derailments. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), PTC accomplishes two of its top priorities – safety and innovation. With vast improvements in rail safety with industry-designed technologies, PTC can monitor speed and automatically stop trains in order to prevent certain accidents resulting from human error.
The DOT has supported the implementation of PTC since the original mandate in 2008. It has provided technical support and administered over $2.5 billion in funding of PTC for freight, intercity and commuter railroads through many grant and loan programs.
By implementing PTC across the railroad, the architecture for future technological advancements is set in motion. CN stated that “PTC is the catalyst that advanced technology, processes, tools and training capabilities and has fundamentally changed the way CN operates its rail network.”
In its Nov. 25 press release, CN stated that along with expectations to be fully interoperable with all tenant railroads by Dec. 31, 2020, it is currently interoperable with Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern, BNSF, Canadian Pacific and the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad.
“We can be proud that we met our regulatory targets and implemented a broad new portfolio of innovative technologies in geospatial information systems, location tracking, data analytics, machine learning, automation, a new dispatching system and safety and reliability engineering.” Reilly stated.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a quarterly status update on Nov. 25, 2019, discussing the railroads’ self-reported progress toward fully implementing PTC systems.
“We remain steadfast in compelling and assisting railroads to successfully complete all steps necessary for full PTC implementation,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “The magnitude of this undertaking is immense, but putting PTC systems into operation demands diligence and a continued sense of urgency.”
According to railroads’ Third Quarter 2019 PTC Progress Reports, the majority of the 42 railroads subject to the statutory implementation requirement are operating PTC systems in revenue service or advanced field testing, referred to as revenue service demonstration (RSD).
The deadline for the implementation of PTC is Dec. 31, 2020. There are currently four host railroads and three tenant-only, commuter railroads that report having fully implemented PTC.
PTC systems are currently governing operations on 92.4% of all required route miles, according to the Third Quarter Reports. Class I freight railroads report that PTC is in operation on 51,222 (95.4%) of their requires route miles, which increased 4% since the Second Quarter 2019 Reports.
Host commuter railroads reported that they are operating PTC systems in revenue service or RSD on approximately 1,310 route miles (42%) of their 3,129 required route miles, which is a 5% increase since the Second Quarter Reports.
Amtrak reported that approximately 899 (99.8%) of nearly 901 required route miles are governed by a PTC system. Further, six Class II or III, short line, or terminal railroads must, by law, implement PTC on their main lines that provide or regularly host scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation.
According to the Third Quarter Reports, one of these six railroads has been operating its FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system in revenue service since 2018. During the third quarter, one of the six commenced RSD on its PTC-required mainline and the other four are currently conducting field testing on general rail network in preparation for RSD.
Nearly 13 months remain until the PTC deadline. Administrator Batory and FRA’s PTC subject matter experts are keeping a close eye on all railroads’ progress as well as providing technical support to all railroads not yet in RSD.
All railroads have committed to fully implementing PTC on their required main lines by the mandated deadline.