Rail Legislation

Lawmakers look to push back deadline for Positive Train Control

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Washington – The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved a markup bill (S. 650) that would delay, by five years, a requirement for railroads to implement Positive Train Control.

As part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act, Congress mandated that PTC systems – emergency slowing and stopping systems intended to help prevent crashes and derailments caused by human error – be installed in freight and passenger railroads by the end of 2015. The mandate followed a 2008 collision between a freight train and passenger train in California that killed 25 people.

A five-year extension is necessary because the deadline was unrealistic after a series of technical glitches and government delays, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said during a March 25 hearing. By delaying the requirement, railroads would not be forced to choose between stopping service and breaking the law.

“I think this is a more realistic way to move forward, but certainly it doesn’t denigrate the help that Positive Train Control could provide when we get there,” Blunt said. “It’s just a realization that there’s no way to get there and meet the standard at the current moment.”

The legislation drew praise from organizations such as the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.