FRA says it will penalize railroads that miss Positive Train Control deadline


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Washington – The vast majority of railroads will not be able to complete the implementation of Positive Train Control systems by Dec. 31, 2015 – a deadline that Congress mandated in 2008. What happens next is a matter for debate.

The House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee conducted a hearing on June 24 to discuss the progress of PTC systems, which aim to prevent rail crashes and derailments caused by human error. Witnesses at the hearing included Federal Railroad Administration Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg; Federal Communications Commission Associate Bureau Chief Charles Mathias; and railroad executives from freight, commuter and passenger rail lines.

Feinberg told subcommittee members that FRA plans to penalize railroads per PTC violation, per day, beginning Jan. 1. She said the agency is finalizing its enforcement strategy.

Railroad officials asked during the hearing for the deadline to be extended as long as they showed a good-faith effort toward PTC as determined by FRA. The rail industry has spent billions on the project and encountered technical glitches and government delays.

Several lawmakers questioned the fairness of immediate penalties.

“We all want to sit up here and fine villains,” Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) said. “This situation is very complex. There are not easy answers to this.”