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Positive Train Control (PTC) Information (Railroad Safety)

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a processor-based/communication-based train control system designed to prevent train accidents.  PTC may be voluntarily developed and implemented by a railroad following the requirements of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 236, Subpart H – Standards for Processor-Based Signal and Train Control Systems; or, may be as mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 developed and implemented by a railroad following the requirements of 49 CFR Part 236, Subpart I – Positive Train Control Systems.

 With limited exceptions and exclusions as described within Subpart I potentially available, PTC is required to be installed and implemented on Class I railroad main lines (i.e., lines with over 5 million gross tons annually) over which any poisonous- or toxic-by-inhalation (PIH/TIH) hazardous materials are transported; and, on any railroad’s main lines over which regularly scheduled passenger intercity or commuter operations are conducted.  It is currently estimated this will equate to approximately 70,000 miles of track and will involve approximately 20,000 locomotives.

 PTC technology is capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements should a train operator fail to take appropriate action for the conditions at hand.  For example, PTC can enforce a train to a stop before it passes a signal displaying a stop indication, or before diverging on a switch improperly lined, thereby averting a potential collision.  PTC systems required to comply with the requirements of Subpart I must reliably and functionally prevent: 

  • Train-to-train collisions;
  • Overspeed derailments;
  • Incursion into an established work zone; and
  • Movement through a main line switch in the improper position.
  • Other functions are applicable within the requirements as specific conditions warrant.

PTC systems must also provide for interoperability in a manner that allows for equipped locomotives traversing other railroad’s PTC-equipped territories to communicate with and respond to that railroad’s PTC system, including uninterrupted movements over property boundaries.

Railroad Safety Technology Grant PTC grant results



(Title 49 CFR)

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