With a mandated government deadline of December 31st to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) systems, Texas railroads are in good shape overall. The Federal Railroad Administration said that all railroads subject to the statutory requirement are now operating PTC systems in revenue service or in advanced field testing, which is known as revenue service demonstration (RSD). As it has been developed and rolled out, PTC consists of a complex on-board, ground and satellite-based operating system that monitors train movements.
Nationally at the end of September, the FRA reported that less than 1% of required track mileage was still in jeopardy of missing the deadline to be in compliance.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, passed by Congress following a mass casualty event between a California commuter train and a freight train the same year, required a higher level of train monitoring and control to prevent overspeed and train-to-train collisions. Failure to implement Positive Train Control on a timely basis was also cited as a contributing factor in a 2015 Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia where eight riders died and over 200 were injured.
PTC systems were to be fully implemented by December 31, 2015, on Class I railroads’ main lines that transport poison- or toxic-by-inhalation hazardous materials and any main lines with regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger service. However, the complexity of the project and ability to obtain needed equipment and bandwidth for transmissions led to a final extension that will end next month.
Each railroad subject to the mandate had to submit quarterly reports to the Federal Railroad Administration until a PTC system was fully implemented on all required main lines, including a report for the quarter in which the railroad completes full PTC system implementation.
At the end of the 3rd quarter 2020 here is how Texas railroads stacked up on having PTC in place for the upcoming deadline:
BNSF Railway - Required 11,570 miles operating with PTC with Amtrak operating trains north and south out of Fort Worth
CapMetro Austin - Certified by the FRA in August for it's 32 miles of track
Denton County Transportation Authority (A-train) - all 23 miles in PTC operation with safety plan under FRA review
Kansas City Southern - 2,154 required miles operating with PTC
TEXRail (Trinity Metro) - 26.3 required miles operating with PTC as well as freight tenant Fort Worth Western
Trinity Railway Express (TRE) - 33.3 miles equipped with PTC as well as freight tenants and Amtrak
Union Pacific Railroad - 17,055.9 miles in PTC operation with Amtrak operating trains east of Dallas, south of Temple to San Antonio and across the state on the Sunset Route.
Urban transit systems such as Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART light rail) and Houston Metro light rail are not subject to PTC requirements.