By the end of 2012, Amtrak expects to more than triple the number of track-miles on its own railroad where Positive Train Control (PTC) safety technology is installed as part of an aggressive program begun more than two years ago.
“PTC is the most important rail safety advancement of our time and Amtrak is strongly committed to its expanded use to enhance safety for our passengers, employees and others with whom we share the tracks across our national network,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman.
PTC technology can control train movements to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed and certain human-caused incidents such as misaligned track switches. It also can protect rail workers along the tracks by slowing or stopping trains from entering work zones.
Boardman explained that today Amtrak has a PTC system in operation on approximately 530 track-miles, including on some sections of the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor (NEC) and the entirety of its Michigan Line. By the end of 2012, Amtrak will have installed PTC on an additional 1,200 track-miles which will build-out all remaining Amtrak-owned sections of the NEC and cover the full length of its Keystone Corridor in Pennsylvania. This new territory will be fully functional when the locomotive fleet is PTC-equipped in 2013.
In addition, later this year Amtrak anticipates it will begin installing PTC components in 50 locomotives that will operate on tracks owned by other railroads for use when those railroads install and make operational their own PTC systems.
Boardman stated that Amtrak has long been a leader in the development of PTC and has successfully operated two PTC systems for years. Amtrak also was the first railroad to receive approval from the Federal Railroad Administration for its PTC Implementation Plan under a federal law requiring PTC on most main line tracks by the end of 2015.
Since 2000, Amtrak has operated PTC technology known as the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) on many sections of the Amtrak-owned NEC between Washington and Boston allowing safe operations at speeds up to 150 mph. Since 2001, PTC technology known as the Incremental Train Control System (ITCS) has been in operation along sections of the Amtrak-owned Michigan Line between Kalamazoo, Mich., and Porter, Ind. In the past two years, Amtrak expanded ITCS to cover all remaining sections of its Michigan Line, and with federal approval, began operating 110 mph service in February 2012.
Amtrak also is working closely with freight and commuter railroads that operate on Amtrak-owned tracks as well as with the host railroads on whose tracks Amtrak trains operate to ensure the different types of PTC systems being deployed across the country are interoperable. Interoperability is essential to maintain safety by ensuring freight and passenger train locomotives can seamlessly communicate with different PTC systems as they operate on tracks owned by other railroads.
For example, the Amtrak locomotives used for the state-supported Heartland Flyer service in Texas and Oklahoma are now PTC-equipped and Amtrak currently is working with the BNSF Railway to ensure interoperability with the PTC system they have installed on their line. In the fall of 2012, Amtrak anticipates operating 110 mph service on a section of the Lincoln Service route between Chicago and St. Louis under a cab signal and ITCS system installed on tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad.
Boardman added that beyond the important safety benefits and serving as the foundation for higher intercity passenger train speeds in certain instances, PTC technology also can support additional communication, train management and operational efficiency improvements that the passenger and freight rail industry are only now beginning to envision.