Positive train control (PTC) implementation is expected to cost the freight railroad industry $9 billion to $10 billion, according to a PTC progress update released yesterday by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
As of Dec. 31, 2015, the freight railroads spent more than $6 billion on PTC, as they continue to work on installation and implementation. PTC is a priority for the industry, but it is critical to make sure that the technology is installed and implemented correctly, AAR officials said in a prepared statement.
Making sure PTC is done right means field-testing is "essential" for safely deploying the technology, which will be a critical focus for the industry in 2016, they said. Currently, rail operators are discovering failure rates of up to 40 percent as they install and test the PTC equipment in labs and designated pilot territories.
By the end of 2016, the AAR anticipates the industry will make the following progress:
38 percent of the targeted 60,153 route miles will have PTC technology;
63 percent of 22,066 locomotives will be equipped with PTC technology;
51 percent of the 114,515 employees requiring training will be PTC-qualified;
87 percent of the more than 32,654 track-side signal systems will be PTC ready; and
77 percent of the 3,968 base station radios will be installed.
The end of 2015 was the original deadline that Congress set for railroads to implement the rail safety technology. Because a majority of railroads would not be able to meet the deadline, Congress late last year extended it to the end of 2018 and, if necessary, up to an additional two years to finalize and test the new technology.
In order to qualify for the extra two years, railroads must meet specific progress benchmarks, AAR officials said. Those benchmarks include:
PTC hardware is 100 percent installed on a railroad's system by Dec. 31, 2018;
PTC technology is implemented on more than 50 percent of its system;
Employee training required by the Federal Railroad Administration is completed; and
All spectrum necessary for PTC implementation is obtained.
PTC technology will be overlay systems, which means they will supplement existing train safety checks and balances, according to AAR.