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FRA publishes final rule on Positive Train Control

CLEVELAND, January 15 — The Federal Railroad Administration published its final rule regarding Positive Train Control systems in the Federal Register dated January 15, 2010. The implementation of Positive Train Control was mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA08).

RSIA08 mandated that freight, intercity passenger and commuter rail routes have operable PTC in place no later than December 31, 2015. Railroads must submit their final PTC plans to the FRA by April 16, 2010. The law mandates PTC on track carrying passenger trains and freight trains that contain highly toxic cargo.

“The implementation of positive train control was one of the best aspects of the Rail Safety Improvement Act passed last year,” BLET National President Paul Sorrow said. “The clear mandate made the railroads move forward on an important safety technology they had been ignoring for years. Positive Train Control will help save many lives.”

The technology is intended to help avert train-to-train collisions and/or derailments caused by excessive speed, accidents caused by human error or misaligned switches, and to protect roadway workers from harm. The control systems would tie in a mix of onboard devices, track signaling and distant traffic dispatch technology to prevent trains from colliding.

According to the FRA, the final rule is the result of over a decade of work by FRA, BLET and other stakeholders, carried out in partnership through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). The National Transportation Safety Board placed positive train control on its Most Wanted List of safety improvements in 1990. The BLET, in addition to other rail labor organizations, have worked with the FRA on this rule.

“Safety is our highest priority, and we believe the installation of this equipment will make our nation’s railroads safer,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a press release.

The railroads have concerns over the costs of the system. However, the FRA cost benefit analyses clearly show a benefit to its implementation. The FRA estimates it will cost the railroads a total of about $5.5 billion to install PTC on 69,000 miles of track, including components placed onboard 30,000 rail vehicles. In addition, railroads will spend about $820 million annually to maintain and refurbish the systems. The recently passed FY 2010 Budget allocates $50 million for positive train control technology.

A copy of the Final Rule is available for download from the BLET website:
http://www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/PTCfinalrule0110.pdf

Friday, January 15, 2010
bentley@ble-t.org

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