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Nation’s Freight Railroads Committed to Safely Implementing Positive Train Control

Railroads Tell NTSB Partial, Not Full, Implementation Possible by 2015 Deadline

WASHINGTON – Feb. 26, 2013 – Representatives from the nation’s major freight railroads tomorrow will tell the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that despite an unrelenting commitment to safely implementing fully interoperable positive train control (PTC), doing so across all of more than 60,000 route miles required before the congressionally mandated 2015 deadline is still not possible.

“Freight railroads are determined to safely implement PTC, and have been putting vast resources and energy behind efforts to do so,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger.  “But the fact is, it’s simply impossible to safely install a reliable, fully interoperable PTC system everywhere it is required by the 2015 deadline. There may be segments of track across the country that will be PTC operable by the 2015 deadline, but completely implementing PTC on the more than 60,000 route miles required by the mandate is still not possible by 2015.”

Since Congress mandated PTC in 2008, freight railroads have spent more than $2.7 billion on implementation, including the design, development and testing of completely new communications technology, on-board computers, radios and back-office train dispatching software that allows each railroad’s PTC system to work together safely.  

While much remains to be done before PTC implementation is complete, significant progress has been made. For example, through the end of 2012 railroads have:

partially equipped 6,072 locomotives with PTC onboard equipment out of a total 18,100 locomotives involved in full implementation;

equipped 8,504 wayside locations with PTC wayside interface units out of 37,512 needed, and

acquired 2,775 220MHz base, wayside and locomotive radios out of the 56,035 that will be needed.

Hamberger also noted that freight railroads are continuing the process of mapping more than 475,000 critical features of the rail system into a computerized track database and much remains to be completed.  Railroads also will have to conduct specialized PTC-related training for approximately three quarters of all employees in the railroad industry workforce once the technology is deployed in their service territory.

Major commuter railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) also have told Congress that technological challenges and a scarcity of necessary funds make meeting the 2015 implementation deadline extremely unlikely.

“Doing what is right and safe must steer this process, not a subjective deadline. We are up against significant hurdles every day and they must be overcome before PTC is launched across every major railroad’s network,” Hamberger said.

Finally, Hamberger also shared a concern that the FRA must rely on its team of PTC specialists to review and certify railroad PTC plans prior to the 2015 deadline. “This is a tremendous burden to achieve in such a short period of time with a limited but highly specialized staff,” he said.

“This is one of the most significant technological undertakings in transportation history,” Hamberger said. “Safely implementing interoperable PTC cannot be rushed – we must get it right to ensure rail continues to be the safest way to move both people and goods.”


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For more information contact: Holly Arthur,, 202-639-2100. 


About AAR: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world's leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers. AAR members include the major freight railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter: AAR_FreightRail or Facebook:​