Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Railroads say that if year-end safety deadline is not extended expect some services to be halted

The seven largest rail companies in the U.S. say that if the Dec. 31 deadline to install a new collision avoidance system is not extended, then service interruptions should be expected, Spencer Chase reports for Agri-Pulse. "In letters to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) major rail carriers say they may not be able to legally continue to provide service due to their incomplete implementation of positive train control (PTC), a safety mechanism meant to monitor and control train movements remotely."

"The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated the installation of PTC across most Class I rail lines by the end of 2015," Chase writes. "According to the Federal Railroad Administration, PTC is supposed to be installed on lines carrying 5 million or more gross tons every year, lines that handle any poisonous-inhalation-hazardous materials, or any lines with 'regularly scheduled intercity passenger or commuter rail services.' Implementation was expected to reach across 70,000 miles of track."

BNSF Railway, the largest rail provider in the country, said in a letter to Congress that it “has serious questions whether it should operate on subdivisions that have not been equipped with PTC in knowing violation of the federal law that mandated PTC as of Jan. 1, 2016," Chase writes. Canadian Pacific Railway said in a letter that “if Congress does not act, actions that the individual rail carriers might take, such as embargoing or rerouting traffic, have the potential to interfere with the fluid operation of the network.”

Union Pacific Railroad said in an email to Agri-Pulse "that without an extension of the PTC implementation deadline, 'neither passenger traffic nor chemicals Americans need and use every day . . . will move on the Union Pacific system by the end of 2015,'" Chase writes.

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