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BNSF files for PTC extension due to interoperability delays with other railroads

Published by , Assistant Editor
Dry Bulk,

In December 2017, BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), one of the largest operators of freight railroad networks in North America, fully installed and was operating under Positive Train Control (PTC) on all mandated subdivisions in advance of the 31 December 2018 deadline.

On Wednesday this week, however, the company announced that it had submitted a request to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for a two-year extension of the PTC deadline. The extension is required due to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) current interpretation of the law that full implementation status cannot be achieved until all non-BNSF trains and/or equipment operating on its PTC-equipped lines are also PTC-compliant.

Chris Matthews, BNSF Assistant Vice President, Network Control Systems, commented: "BNSF has succeeded in the adoption of this key safety technology. Even with this request for a deadline extension, BNSF’s PTC network is installed and we are currently running, and will continue to run, more than a thousand trains daily with PTC as we continue to refine the system and resolve technological challenges."

BNSF reportedly completed the installation of all mandated PTC infrastructure at the end of 2017, including 88 required subdivisions covering more than 11 500 route miles on its network.

However, to be considered fully implemented requires that all other railroads operating across any of BNSF’s PTC-equipped lines must be capable of operating with BNSF’s PTC system. This interoperability of PTC systems between Class I, commuter and short line rail carriers remains a challenge.

BNSF has successfully demonstrated interoperability with several railroads that operate on its network, including commuter railroads and Amtrak. However, not all railroads that operate on BNSF will have completed their PTC installation by the end of 2018.

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