GAO Additional Authorities Could Benefit PCT Implementation

Date: 11/29/2013

Positive Train Control (PTC) Systems Are Integrated Command, Control, Communications, and Information Systems for Controlling Train Movements with Safety, Security, Precision, and Efficiency

Positive Train Control (PTC) systemsPTC systems will improve railroad safety by significantly reducing the probability of collisions between trains, casualties to roadway workers and damage to their equipment, and over speed accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has named PTC as one of its "most-wanted" initiatives for national transportation safety.

What Government Accountability Office (GAO) Found

To install positive train control (PTC) - a communications-based system designed to prevent certain types of train accidents caused by human factors - almost all railroads are overlaying their existing infrastructure with PTC components; nonetheless, most railroads report
they will miss the December 31, 2015, implementation deadline. Both the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have reported that most railroads will not have PTC fully implemented by the deadline. Of the four major freight railroads included in GAO’s review, only one expects to meet the 2015 deadline. The other three freight railroads report that they expect to have PTC implemented by 2017 or later.

Private Freight Rail Investments and Maintenance in Network, Equipment and Training Yield Record Industry Safety Achievements

Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger today told a Senate Commerce Committee panel that massive private investments in safety enhancing infrastructure and maintenance on such things as tracks, new equipment, as well as employee training and cutting edge technologies, have helped make our nation’s railroads safer than ever in their history.

These safety-enhancing investments have included roughly $2.8 billion spent since 2008 on implementing positive train control (PTC) technology in an effort to meet a deadline of December 2015 as mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act.  Due to both technological and non-technological challenges that have arisen throughout the implementation process, however, freight railroads have determined it will not be possible to have a fully interoperable nationwide PTC system up and running by the 2015 deadline.  Hamberger said the current 2015 deadline should be extended by at least three years, to Dec. 31, 2018, with flexibility given to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to consider additional extensions should they be deemed necessary.

Unprecedented Technological Challenge

PTC development and implementation includes a daunting array of tasks that railroads must perform, including:

  • A complete physical survey and highly precise geo-mapping of the 60,000 miles of railroad right-of-way on which PTC technology will be installed, including geo-mapping of nearly 474,000 field assets (mileposts, curves, grade crossings, switches, signals, and much more) along that right of way.
  • Installing PTC technology on approximately 22,000 locomotives.
  • Installing approximately 36,000 “wayside interface units” (WIU) that provide the mechanism for transmitting information to locomotives and the train dispatching office from signal and switch locations along the right of way.
  • Installing PTC technology on nearly 4,800 switches in non-signaled territory and completing more than 12,300 signal replacement projects at locations where the existing signal equipment cannot accommodate PTC technology.
  • Developing, producing, and deploying a new radio system and new radios specifically designed for the massive data transmission requirements of PTC at 4,200 base stations, 33,700 trackside locations, and on approximately 22,000 locomotives.
  • Developing back office systems and upgrading dispatching software to incorporate the data and precision required for PTC systems.
  • Installing more than 20,000 new antenna structures nationwide to transmit PTC signals.



Locomotive Cab Computer Display
AIS offers customization computer display unit, locomotive cab display unit, locomotive control display and interoperable electronic train management system (I-ETMS) display design service to meet customer specific platform requirements and standards for communications and train control systems.

Locomotive Cab Display UnitA new console enhances automatic train control system design by allowing the operator of a mass transit vehicle to communicate with the vehicle's automatic train control system. The console utilizes microprocessor controls, a liquid crystal display, a standard keypad, and RS-232 communications. The operator is alerted to abnormal operating conditions and guided through corrective measures. Self-diagnostic routines are run during normal operation and during routine out-of-service maintenance. The application of microprocessors and associated technology allows changes in train operating characteristics to be made quickly and easily in the car borne software. Increased operator awareness of the state of the automatic train control system should reduce lost time and increase revenue service availability.

  • EN 50155 - Railway Applications - EN Standard for Electronic Equipment Used on Rolling Stock
  • EN 50126 - Railway Applications - EN Standard for Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety
  • EN 60950-1 - Railway Applications - EN Standard for Information Technology Equipment and Safety
  • EN 60721-3-2 - Railway Applications - EN Standard for Classification of Environmental Conditions - Part 3: Classification of Groups of Environmental Parameters and Their Severities - Section 2: Transportation
  • IEC 60529 - Railway Applications - Standard for Degrees of Protection Provided by Enclosures (IP Code)
  • IEC 61076-2-101 - Railway Applications - Standard for Connectors for Electronic Equipment
  • IEC 62236-3-2: - Railway Applications - Standard for Electromagnetic Compatibility - Part 3-2: Rolling Stock - Apparatus
  • IEC 61373 - Railway Applications - Standard for Rolling Stock Equipment - Shock and Vibration Tests
  • ARR S-910, S-9401 - Railway Applications - Association of American Railroads - AAR Standard for Electronics System Architecture
  • ANSI IEC 60529 - Degrees Of Protection Provided By Enclosures (IP Code), Measures To Protect Both The Enclosure And The Equipment Inside The Enclosure Against External Influences Or Conditions Such As Corrosion, Corrosive Solvents, Fungus, Vermin, Solar Radiation, Icing, Moisture, And Explosive Atmospheres