September 29, 2015


Legislation extends deadline for PTC and sets a date certain for full implementation

Washington, D.C. – Today, leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure introduced bipartisan legislation to extend the deadline for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) until 2018. The legislation comes after a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that most U.S. railroads will fail to meet the December 31, 2015 deadline to implement critical, life-saving PTC technology.

The bill was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA), and Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Capuano (D-MA).

“Seven years ago, following a tragic accident in Chatsworth, California, Congress passed legislation that set a deadline for implementation of Positive Train Control. PTC has been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s list of most wanted safety improvements since the list was created in 1990. Over the years, numerous accidents could have been prevented had PTC been installed. Unfortunately, according to the Federal Railroad Administration and the GAO, nearly every railroad will fail to meet the deadline set back in 2008. This one-time extension is now a necessity to prevent disruptions to rail service across the nation and to ensure that PTC will finally be fully implemented. Stakeholders must use this time to get PTC online as soon as possible – Congress will not accept any more delays.

“I’m disappointed this extension is necessary and that we aren’t considering it as part of a larger surface transportation bill that also includes enhancements to transportation safety.  I’m hopeful that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will soon move a surface transportation reauthorization bill that includes improvements to the safety of transporting hazardous materials. This legislation should include provisions to increase the safety of  the transport of high-hazard flammable materials by rail; improve training for emergency responders and hazmat employees; and provide funding to help passenger railroads implement PTC,” said DeFazio.

“There is broad agreement on the necessity of implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), which will help prevent rail accidents and save lives. Unfortunately, nearly every railroad will miss the deadline for installing PTC, and requiring adherence to the end of year deadline won’t change that.  This one-time extension will give the industry the time it says it needs to complete PTC installation, while ensuring that full implementation is achieved by a date certain. I am hopeful this legislation is the start of a conversation that includes a comprehensive look at all matters related to rail safety," stated Capuano.

The bipartisan legislation extends the deadline for implementing PTC for three years, to December 31, 2018. Under the legislation, the Secretary of Transportation has the discretion to extend the deadline for up to 12 months if a carrier is able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Secretary that they: (1) are not able to meet the deadline due to technical, programmatic, or operational challenges, such as availability of public funding, spectrum, technology, and interoperability standards; (2) have taken actions to address any challenges and mitigate risks to successful implementation of PTC; and (3) have made good faith efforts to implement their plans.

If carriers still face challenges, the Secretary has the discretion to provide a one-time additional extension of up to 12 months if a carrier is able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Secretary that (1) implementation of PTC was delayed due to one or more circumstances beyond the carrier’s control, such as a delay in Federal approval of a plan, testing, or certification; or (2) the carrier has experienced additional technical, programmatic, or operational challenges; demonstrated due diligence in fully implementing PTC; and has made substantial progress in fully implementing PTC. Any such carrier must commit to the Secretary in writing that they will fully implement PTC by the end of the extension.

The legislation also requires the railroads to revise and transmit to the Secretary their PTC implementation plans which must include a detailed schedule and sequence for full implementation of PTC. Under current law, the Secretary has authority to enforce the plan.

Finally, the legislation authorizes the Secretary to phase-in PTC deployment so the railroads do not have to wait until the end to “turn it on.” A phase-in is not authorized under current law or Federal regulation.