MTA board hears from PTC contractors about implementation issues

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Croton-Harmon-bound Metro-North train 725, stopped at Marble Hill Station in the Bronx on May 26, 2018, is on its way from Grand Central. The MTA board heard from key vendors Wednesday on PTC installation on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.
Ralph Spielman

NEW YORK — Metropolitan Transportation Authority Patrick Foye called it “radical transparency.” By any name, Wednesday’s meeting was the MTA board of directors’ chance to learn more about problems with the installation of positive train control from two key contractors, Bombardier Transportation and Siemens Mobility.

Bombardier President Danny Di Perna and Siemens CEO Michael Peter appeared before the board to discuss the $1-billion project to install PTC on the largest and third-largest commuter rail operations in the U.S., the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North. The project was originally to be completed in 2015 and is now facing a December 2020 deadline.

When the meeting began, Foy spoke about a letter of apology he had received from the two executives, then distributed to officials at the two railroads and the board. Trains News Wire was provided a copy by the MTA. Signed by Di Perna and Peter, it expressed regret that Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser could not attend Wednesday’s meeting, as was requested by the board in April, as well as the difficulties with the project. It promised resolution by new leadership, increased resources, and enhancing coordination between the two firms, with a promise to meet the Dec. 31, 2020 deadline.

The two executives faced questions from the board including liability for a $10,000 per train per day fine if the implementation date is not met, how many other rail carriers the firms were working with on PTC, and where a promised increase in vendor headcount would come from.

Di Perna said 53 Aerospace technical systems engineers will be assigned to Pittsburgh, where the PTC equipment is manufactured. Peter indicated a new software release in September would be available to help the Long Island Rail Road with its particularly dense operations, notably with trouble spots at interlockings at Harold, which sees 800 train movements per day, and Valley, which controls three converging LIRR lines.

Board members remained skeptical about some answers.

Former MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander, now president of Bombardier’s Americas region, was also in attendance and talked of the stakes for both vendors in meeting a deadline little more than a year and a half away.

“There is no Plan B,” Sander said. “We are totally in. We are being totally transparent with areas we need to focus on and areas we have nailed."

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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