FRA Begins Development of Positive Train Control Regulations

WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is moving forward with developing new rules that prescribe how railroads should implement Positive Train Control (PTC) systems to prevent train-to-train collisions, announced FRA Acting Administrator Clifford C. Eby.

“We are acting quickly and without delay because railroads will need guidance on how to create plans to deploy PTC systems by the end of 2015,” Eby said, noting the first deadline mandated by Congress in a new rail safety law is April 2010, when major freight railroads and intercity and commuter rail operators must submit their PTC implementation plans to FRA for approval.

Eby stated that developing the new rules is a necessary first step to specify how the technically complex PTC systems must function and to describe how FRA will assess a railroad’s PTC implementation plan before it can become operational. He added FRA is already working with its Railroad Safety Advisory Committee to identify key issues and will release a recommendations report by next April.

In addition, FRA is coordinating efforts with the Federal Communications Commission to make available a sufficient amount of radio frequency spectrum essential for PTC technology to function properly as it sends and receives a constant stream of wireless signals about the location and speed of passenger and freight trains moving along rail lines. FRA also is working closely with Metrolink, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the BNSF Railway to accelerate the deployment of PTC in the Los Angeles area by the end of 2012, Eby emphasized.

“I am encouraged that the major freight railroads have reached agreement for the interoperability of PTC technology across different rail systems,” said Eby, stressing that resolving this key technical challenge will facilitate PTC implementation industry-wide.

PTC technology is capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements if a locomotive engineer fails to take appropriate action. For example, it can bring a train to a stop before it passes a red signal to avert a potential collision. Other benefits of PTC systems include prevention of over-speed derailments and unauthorized incursions by a train into work zones.

Eby also noted that FRA has done extensive PTC-related technical research in recent years and significantly revised federal signal and train control regulations to support development of the safety technology.