U.S. Regulatory Requirements for Positive Train Control Systems

U.S. Regulatory Requirements for Positive Train Control Systems

Mark Hartong (Federal Railroad Administration, USA) and Duminda Wijesekera (George Mason University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1643-1.ch001
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Positive Train Control (PTC) Systems are a type of Communications Based Train Control System (CBTC) designed to enhance railroad safety. As a consequence of a series of high profile train accidents in the United States, a statutory mandate for the installation of these systems in high risk areas by the end of 2015 has been established. This chapter identifies the impetus behind the statute, the statutory requirements associated with PTC, the implementing regulations for the statutory requirements, and the current status of regulatory compliance.
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Rail operations in the U.S. are predominately freight, with comparatively limited passenger/commuter services. The U.S. rail system is the largest integrated freight and passenger system in the world, operating over 169,000 miles of track (AAR, 2010; IUC 2010). The 563 freight railroads employ almost 170,000 people and operate over 1.2 million freight cars. The 563 freight railroads are dominated by seven “Class 1”1 railroads; the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF), CSX, Kansas City Southern (KCS), Norfolk Southern (NS) Canadian Pacific (CP - Soo Line), Canadian National (CN- Grand Trunk) and Union Pacific (UP). The CP (Soo Line) and CN (Grand Trunk) represent the U.S. operations of the CP and CN Railroads respectively.

The Class 1 freight railroads play a significant role in the U.S. economy. They moved over 1,820 billion ton miles of freight, or 42% of all US freight traffic by revenue mile (DOT, 2007). In contrast, the 27 members of the European Union only moved 447 billion tonne-kilometers, 18.1% of all freight traffic by tone-kilometer (EU, 2010). In terms of operating revenue, the 2009 aggregate revenues of the BNSF, UP, CSX, and NS alone were over $44 billion dollars. If these numbers are viewed as a country, then their combined revenues would rank them as the 72st largest country in the world by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (IMF, 2010)

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