By the numbers, railroads report PTC progress (updated)

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WASHINGTON — Kansas City Southern track and signal workers had a busy spring. The railroad reported it nearly quadrupled the number of route-miles operable under positive train control between the first and second quarters of 2018, according to the latest PTC data from the Federal Railroad Administration.

KCS’ PTC route-miles jumped from 281 miles to 1,389 miles between March 31 and June 30.  The total comprises 63 percent of the railroad's total mileage to be put under PTC control.

Route-mile progress on other Class 1 railroads was slower. CSX reported the greatest increase, 31.8 percent in the Second Quarter. That's 5,962 of 9,713 route miles, or 62 percent. Union Pacific showed the least progress, with a 4 percent increase, or 68 percent of the railroad's 17,063 PTC route miles.

Canadian Pacific increased its route miles under PTC from 622 to 807, a 58 percent increase. Canadian National reported no progress, and has yet to implement any route-miles requiring PTC. At the other extreme, BNSF has completed its PTC installation.

Congress ordered railroads to install PTC systems by Dec. 31, or to have demonstrated sufficient progress to qualify for extensions up to two years to complete them. As of June 30, the FRA data show that 14 of the 40 railroads that require PTC systems have qualified for extensions.

The FRA introduced an interoperability metric at the beginning of the year, a measure of how much one railroad's PTC system would connect with another's in cases where they were sharing trackage or motive power. In the case of tenant commuter lines, how well the commuter line's locomotives connected with the host railroad's system.

As of June 30, interoperability had been barely touched. BNSF and Amtrak reported 25 percent and 24 percent respectively. Northstar Commuter Rail in Minneapolis and Sounder Commuter Rail in Seattle reported they were interoperable with their single host. The Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPTA) system, and Long Island Railroad each reported interoperability of one of two hosts. Southern California's Metrolink said interoperability with two of its three hosts.

At the beginning of the year, FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory identified 15 railroads, 12 of them commuter operations, that were “at risk” of missing the year-end deadline. Three railroads — Belt Railway of Chicago, Conrail, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — no longer appear on the at-risk list as of June 30.

In a press release, Batory said the railroads had made “significant improvements over the past year implementing this safety technology … While we are seeing progress among a majority of railroads, we want to see everyone meet their requirements.”

— Updated at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2018 to correct the railroads no longer on the PTC at-risk list.

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