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Fully Implement Positive Train Control
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 Fully Implement Positive Train Control

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What is the problem?

Spurred by a deadly accident in Chatsworth, California, in 2008, Congress and regulators issued federal mandates requiring that railroads install positive train control (PTC) to prevent similar tragedies. PTC is a life-saving collision avoidance technology that stops a train before it strikes an obstacle. The first deadline—in 2015—came and went with few railroads meeting it; the second deadline—December 31, 2018—has now passed, with more than a quarter of passenger route miles and 83 percent of passenger locomotives PTC-operable. Congress has allowed regulators to grant extensions.

Since Congress issued its original 2015 deadline to install PTC, we have investigated many PTC-preventable accidents, including the December 18, 2017, derailment of an Amtrak train in DuPont, Washington, in which three passengers died.

Some railroads have been working hard and spending billions of dollars to implement PTC, improving the safety of many tracks and trains. According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Quarter 3 PTC Status Report, issued in September 2018, five “at-risk” railroads still remained; they had installed less than 95 percent of their PTC system hardware and were in danger of not meeting Congressionally mandated deadlines or the criteria necessary for an alternative schedule.

What can be done?

The extended deadline for the full PTC implementation must be met, and no further extensions should be granted. Preventable accidents, injuries, and deaths will continue until PTC is fully implemented. The safety of railroad passengers, train and maintenance crews, and the people who live and work near railroads demands that railroads fully implement PTC before the extended 2020 deadline.

To address the problem of PTC-preventable accidents, the following actions should be taken:


  • Implement PTC now. All deadlines have passed; do not request any further extensions.


  • Do not allow any further extensions. The Federal Railroad Administration must continue to pressure railroads that did not meet previous deadlines and track the results of implementation.
  • Continue to highlight railroads that met the deadline or are meeting the extended deadlines—and point out those who do not.

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