Tag Archive for PTC

Los Angeles Metrolink Goes “live” With PTC Train Safety

Los Angeles administrators early on embraced the mission to convert to higher safety PTC systems and now in mid year 2015 have gone “live”.

Meanwhile, many other US commuter railroads complain that they might need more than a thousands extra days to make their legislatively mandated train safety upgrade fully operational ( by this year’s) end.

See more discussion at: http://mobile.metrolinktrains.com/index/newsDetail/id/983

LOS ANGELES Metrolink has launched its Positive Train Control (PTC) in Revenue Service Demonstration (RSD) across the entire 341-mile network the agency owns.  They did so earlier this month.

Metrolink thus becomes the first commuter railroad in the USA to have PTC running during regular service on all of its hosted lines and remains on track to become the nation’s first passenger rail system to have a fully operational, interoperable, and certified PTC system in place.

Metrolink began operating PTC RSD on the last of Metrolink’s hosted rail system on June 14. RSD simply means trains in revenue service or in Metrolinks case, with passengers on board.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) set a federally mandated deadline of December 31, 2015 for PTC implementation. PTC involves a Global Positioning System (GPS)-based technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursion into work zones and train movement through switches left in the wrong position.

The NTSB has consistently included PTC in its lists of most wanted safety technologies for more than 40 years.

Across its 512 route-mile network, Metrolink also operates on track owned and dispatched by the Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway and the North County Transit District (NCTD) in San Diego County.

Metrolink provides nearly one million passenger boardings a month throughout its system.

The FRA has authorized Metrolink to operate PTC RSD using Wabtec’s ™ Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS)

Parsons Transportation Group, Inc., a business unit of Parsons Corporation, is the primary contractor managing Metrolink’s ™ PTC program.

The current cost for developing, installing and deploying PTC on the Metrolink system is estimated at about $216 million. Approximately 85 percent of the funds come from state and local dollars.

Among the metrics for the Metrolink PTC program are these:

the design and installation and then testing of a full deployment with a back-office server (BOS) system and new PTC-compatible computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system.

— installed on-board PTC equipment on 57 cab cars and 52 locomotives

— Out on track, they installed signal communication devices at 168 wayside locations, and implementing a six-county specialized communication network to link the wayside signals, trains and a new central train dispatch center.

The Metrolink Dispatch and Operations Center (DOC) is located in Pomona California.

Additional PTC information on coordination between railroads when installing

A reliable source suggests that the FCC testimony by Mr Mathias might have included this additional technical information on how to avoid communications issues among different adjacent rail companies.

The FCC had provided 91 channels in the 160 MHz band to the railroad industry in 1945, and that by cutting the channel size in half in the 1990s, the railroad industry now has 182 channels in the 160 MHz band.

The AAR/TTCI is apparently the assigned frequency coordinator for these 182 channels in the 160 MHz band (as well as for the 16 channels in the 220 MHz band that PTC-220, LLC – owned by the Class I railroads – purchased).

The railroads had the option of converting the use of some of their 182 channels in the 160 MHz band from voice to data (for PTC).

The AAR/TTCI, as frequency coordinator, has a role to insure that there is no interference between the users of these channels by making sure there is sufficient spacing between antennas that are transmitting frequencies likely to interfere with one another in different locations.


PTC required investment may end some passenger train services — including the Amtrak Southwest Chief

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief service between Chicago and Los Angeles runs over tracks owned by the private freight railroad the Kansas City Terminal (KCT).  Technically classified by STB terminology as a Class III railroad, this freight line section of tracks is exempt from the federal PTC requirement as a freight mover. Unless, the track is used by passenger trains.

This small company but heavily used railroad argues in negotiations with Amtrak that since they are considered Class III, the federal PTC requirement is triggered by the operation of passenger trains.  Therefore the PTC requirement is a solely allocated cost to be borne by Amtrak.  Amtrak should be responsible for the capital cost of the PTC installation.

The cost estimate for the relatively short urban distance is $30 million on the KCT tracks. Both Amtrak and the state of Missouri say they have no budget for those costs.  Therefore, Amtrak has notified KCT officials that Amtrak service over the KCT track will end by the end of 2015 unless the parties come up with an alternative or the FRA grants an exemption.

Amtrak Anti-Crash System “May” Malfunction Near Freight Railroad Lines

From a Bloomberg report on Jun 10, 2015

Radio interference from freight railroads may disable the automated solution Amtrak is finalizing to prevent high-speed derailments like last month’s fatal accident in Philadelphia.

To read the entire article, go to http://bloom.bg/1FSqTr4

A few Highlights:

Freight railroads operating from New Haven, CT. to Boston plan to use the same radio frequencies as Amtrak for their separate train-safety system.

Charles Mathias associate chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau gave a report to Congress on Wednesday.

“This could degrade or disable communications on both systems, causing either or both to function improperly or stop functioning altogether,” Mathias said at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in Washington. “We understand the criticality of this,” and the FCC is working with railroads to resolve the issue, he said.

The radio-interference issue creates a new hurdle for the system that the National Transportation Safety Board said would have prevented the May 12 derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight passengers and injured hundreds of others. Known as positive train control, it has been delayed for years while railroads attempted to buy airwaves and wrestled with cost and technical issues.

Amtrak has options to resolve the interference and expects to complete installation by the end of the year on rails it owns along its popular Northeast Corridor route that snakes from Washington to Boston, Christina Leeds, a spokeswoman, said.

So far, Amtrak has spent $110.7 million on the PTC control program since 2008, Leeds told Congress.

AAR associated railroads give June 2015 PTC status report to Congress

At the discussion on an extension for implementing PTC continues in Congress, the Association of American Railroads gave the following status report for its members.

Remember that where averages are shown, some carriers will be much more advanced… … for example, on the BNSF and on the Los Angeles commuter rail service.

Regardless of the technical issues faced, some of the AAR members have really accomplished much of the technical tasks.

According to the AAR’s PTC progress report to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA):

• more than 11,000 railroad route miles will be equipped with PTC;

— percent coverage not given

• about 9,000 locomotives will be PTC ready;

— perhaps greater than one-third of fleet

• 76% of the 34,000 required wayside units will be installed;

• 67% of base station radios will be in place; and

• 32,446 of 95,971 railroad employees will be PTC trained.

Some Senators agree that a five year PTC blanket time extension might be a bad approach

A proposed US senate bill to give railroads as much as 1,800 + extra days (5-years) to install safety technology might be excessive.

Senators increasingly admit that if some of the US railroad managers can reach the target date end of year “go live” date set by Congress more than 2,000 days ago, then the permission to fail and not face penalty fines should probably not be too generous.

Senate Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and an original co-sponsor of a pending 5-year extension bill for PTC appears now to feel it may be more prudent to examine something other than a blanket 5-years extension.

A number of other Senators, now after the tragic Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, acknowledge that some rail company leaders will get the job done by the originally mandated end of year 2015 date.

Giving those railroads that will fail to meet the PTC deadline, even if for reasonable technical reasons, an extension much longer than that needed to win the Pacific World War 2 theater fight — should perhaps be carefully reconsidered.

What do you think is a reasonable timeline?


The full report by Jonathan Tamari is in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer on page A2.