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FRA proposes changes to PTC procedure for modifications, railroad reporting

By | December 30, 2020

Rule would streamline process for modifications, increase requirement for railroad reports on PTC failures

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration is proposing changes to positive train control regulations that would change the process which railroads must follow in order to make changes to their PTC safety plans and FRA-certified PTC systems, and change railroads’ requirements for reporting on PTC performance.

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In a proposed rule published earlier this month, the agency wants to streamline the process for requests for amendments, establishing a 45-day deadline for the FRA to review and approve or deny requests. Currently, the timeline is open-ended. It will also permit railroads with similar PTC systems to make joint requests for amendments.

The FRA says this reflects the rail industry’s intent to continually update systems, both through necessary maintenance and to further develop the technology by improving reliability or adding new functions. (For example, Kansas City Southern CEO Patrick Ottensmeyer is among industry executives who have noted that PTC could be a springboard for autonomous operation. [See “KCS CEO hints at autonomous operations …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 15, 2020]. This would no doubt require modifications to existing systems.)

The proposed rule will also change the current requirement for railroads to provide the FRA with a report on PTC system failures from an annual to a twice-yearly report, while expanding the information required to include details on positive performance as well as failures, and clarifying that only host railroads must file these reports; tenant railroads will provide information to their host railroads for inclusion.

The proposal is currently in a comment period ending Feb. 16.

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