OIRA Releases Positive Train Control Rule

The railroad industry has described the technologies involved as too expensive, with a total estimated cost to freight railroads over 20 years of at least $10 billion.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has completed its review of the Federal Railroad Administration's proposed rule implementing the positive train control mandate enacted by Congress in 2008, which means it can be published and set the stage for accelerated deployment of PTC technologies. The vision for PTC is automated collision avoidance and increased safety, but the Association of American Railroads has warned the price is steep: U.S. freight railroads will spend as much as $10 billion to $14 billion over 20 years to install and maintain the systems, AAR said.

OIRA, a White House office that reviews proposed federal rules, announced on its reviews website that this review was completed Aug. 15.

The Federal Railroad Administration describes PTC systems as integrated command, control, communications, and information systems for controlling train movements with safety, security, precision, and efficiency. "PTC systems will improve railroad safety," according to the agency, "by significantly reducing the probability of collisions between trains, casualties to roadway workers and damage to their equipment, and over speed accidents." PTC systems include digital communications networks, continuous and accurate positioning systems, on-board computers with digitized maps on locomotives and maintenance-of-way equipment, in-cab displays, throttle-brake interfaces on locomotives, wayside interface units at switches and wayside detectors, and control center computers and displays. They also may interface with tactical and strategic traffic planners, work order reporting systems, and locomotive health reporting systems, according to FRA, which has said several major railroads voluntarily began implementing some of the technologies on some of their tracks and equipment.

The mandate is to have the systems installed by 2015.

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