Concerned that rail industry is not taking necessary steps to meet deadline to install positive train control
Jan 27 2012
Washington—U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.) this week called on the Federal Railroad Administration to review railroad industry efforts to implement lifesaving positive train control (PTC) technology.
In a letter to FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, the senators wrote: “We know that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the rail industry have begun taking steps in order to deploy PTC, but we are concerned by reports that the current pace of progress and investment is insufficient to meet the statutory deadline.”
After the deadly collision of a Metrolink commuter train and a freight train in Chatsworth in 2008, Congress passed a Feinstein/Boxer bill requiring operators to install PTC on main lines that transport passengers or toxic materials by the end of 2015.
The full text of the letter is below:
January 25, 2012
Mr. Joseph Szabo
Federal Railroad Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington D.C., DC 20003
Dear Mr. Szabo:
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandates the installation of positive train control (PTC) by December 31, 2015, on main lines used to transport passengers or toxic materials. We know that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the rail industry have begun taking steps in order to deploy PTC, but we are concerned by reports that the current pace of progress and investment is insufficient to meet the statutory deadline.
We write to request that the FRA Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request to Congress include a description of how the funding requested for PTC oversight and rail safety technology will be sufficient to ensure that railroad operators meet the 2015 deadline. We would also like to better understand both the challenges to timely PTC implementation and FRA’s plans to address these challenges. We would therefore greatly appreciate it if FRA would provide Congress with a status report on PTC implementation that provides the following analysis.
- Assesses each PTC implementation plan submitted to and approved by FRA to determine how many railroad operators are on schedule to meet the deadline, including an assessment of whether railroad operators are meeting benchmarks and making investments necessary to address interoperability issues; acquire spectrum, hardware and software; develop back office server systems; and address other key steps.
- Outlines known challenges that could impact, delay, or complicate PTC implementation by the 2015 deadline, and comments specifically on the amount and nature of the PTC spectrum needed, spectrum availability, and options for securing spectrum.
- Determines and reports on the sufficiency of existing FRA resources dedicated to the PTC approval and implementation process.
- Assesses and reports on FRA’s ability to obtain personnel qualified to manage and oversee PTC implementation and long term operation.
- Proposes a methodology to monitor railroad operator compliance with their PTC implementation plans and manage the national implementation of PTC effectively across the industry.
- Estimates the funding required for FRA to (a) oversee field testing of PTC implementation phases, (b) develop a national implementation plan to promote a coordinated, timely, and effective implementation strategy that will materially reduce risks in the highest risk territories where freight trains and passenger trains share tracks, and (c) implement that plan.
- Comments on the feasibility and additional funding necessary for FRA to produce semiannual reports to Congress on progress implementing PTC.
We are deeply concerned that falling behind on PTC deployment could prompt attempts to extend the 2015 deadline in the future, and so we would appreciate it if FRA would provide this report in 60 days.
We recognize that FRA has been working with suppliers and the rail industry to advance the implementation of this life-saving technology. We look forward to working with you to identify and address the challenges to PTC deployment expeditiously in order to ensure that this critical safety enhancement is successfully implemented on a national level.