Press Releases

WASHINGTON – As the Dec. 31, 2015, deadline for our nation’s freight and passenger railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) technology looms, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) joined 41 of their Senate colleagues in a letter urging Senate leadership to extend the deadline for completing the implementation.

A recent Government Accountability Office study reported that railroads are unable to meet the deadline at the end of this year, which could potentially cause disruptions to our national rail network. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, PTC is a system designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speeds and more. For example, PTC can force 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. 

“Full implementation of PTC is critical to the safety of the men and women who operate our nation’s trains, the millions of passengers that move around the country and the thousands of manufacturers, farmers and ranchers that depend on rails to move world-class products to market,” the letter states. “That is why it remains essential for Congress to hold railroads accountable to efficiently complete the PTC requirements set forth in RSIA (Rail Safety Improvement Act) … Railroads play a vital role in our nation’s economy. We cannot afford a disruption of rail service, which could occur if Congress does not extend this deadline.”

RSIA, which was enacted on October 16, 2008, and the corresponding regulations issued by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) require passenger and major freight railroads to implement PTC on most major track lines by December 31, 2015.

A pdf of the letter can be found here, and the text is included below:

September 30, 2015

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Reid:

We write to address the approaching statutory deadline for the full implementation of positive train control (PTC) safety technology. As reported in a recent GAO study, it is increasingly clear that our nation's freight and passenger railroads are unable to meet the December 31, 2015 implementation deadline. We believe it is important to ensure that the railroads complete implementation of PTC in an expeditious manner without any unnecessary disruptions to our national rail network. With this in mind, Congress must act now to extend the looming deadline to provide certainty to businesses and individuals that rely on the railroads while providing a clear timeline for meeting the PTC requirements set forth in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA).

When implemented, PTC will be a critical safety component of our national rail network. Full implementation is critical to the safety of the men and women who operate our nation's trains, the millions of passengers that move around the country and the thousands of manufacturers, farmers and ranchers that depend on rails to move world-class products to market. That is why it remains essential for Congress to hold railroads accountable to efficiently complete the PTC requirements set forth in RSIA. We must also do so in a way that acknowledges current constraints as the Senate did when it passed the bipartisan DRIVE Act.

Railroads play a vital role in our nation's economy. We cannot afford a disruption of rail service, which could occur if Congress does not extend this deadline. Myriad businesses rely on dependable service and would be unnecessarily hurt by a slowdown in service, whether it is a farmer looking to sell this year's harvest, a sawmill moving logs or an energy company delivering fuel. Additionally, millions of passengers that depend on reliable service to commute locally as well as nationally will face preventable challenges.

It is important that we extend this deadline in a responsible way that ensures smooth implementation of this new technology with measurable benchmarks. It is also imperative that Congress take up this issue immediately, as railroads will begin to alter their service standards weeks before the actual deadline.  We appreciate your attention to this time-sensitive manner, and stand ready to work with you.

Sincerely,