Positive Train Control (PTC)
Ever since the enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), the U.S.’ freight rail industry has been working on implementing the Positive Train Control (PTC) technology on over 60,000 miles of the rail network. The original deadline of December 31, 2015 was extended to 2018 after several railroads have stated they are unable to meet the deadline due to technical and legal complications.
The Positive Train Control consists of a bundle of state-of-the-art technologies meant to avoid accidents caused by human error, track or equipment malfunction, faulty movement of trains through a grade crossing, breaches on railroad tracks and other types of train operator errors. More precisely, PTC aims to prevent train-on-train collisions, deflections caused by excessive speed or other derailments on tracks where maintenance operations are underway.
The technology uses a number of factors like weight and length of the train, track composition, train speed and train authorization in order to calculate the adequate stopping distance for a train. The PTC system includes an onboard locomotive system that monitors the position and speed of the train and triggers braking in case of speeding or unapproved train movement; a wayside system to check track signals, switches and track circuits for movement authorization; and a back office server that stores all relevant rail traffic information.
Until 2015, 6.4 billion U.S. dollars have been spent for the PTC deployment on over more than 2,300 of track miles and more than 4,500 locomotives. By 2020, the total costs will rise to more than 10 billion U.S. dollars.