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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Positive Train Control (PTC) Information (R&D)

Summary

Four computer monitors on a desk.Positive Train Control (PTC) systems are integrated command, control, communications, and information systems for controlling train movements with safety, security, precision, and efficiency.  The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) mandated that PTC be implemented across a significant portion of the Nation's rail industry by December 31, 2015.  The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published the final rule addressing PTC requirements on January 15, 2010, which consisted of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) part 236; subpart I. FRA published final rule amendments on September 27, 2010 and on May 14, 2012. Lines requiring PTC are essentially Class I railroad main lines—over which 5 million or more gross tons are transported annually—that handle any poisonous-inhalation-hazardous (PIH) materials and any railroad main lines over which regularly scheduled intercity passenger or commuter rail services are provided. PTC is expected to be implemented over a total of approximately 58,000 miles of track.

PTC refers to communication-based/processor-based train control technology designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, over speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and the movement of a train through a main line switch in the improper position. PTC systems vary widely in complexity and sophistication based on the level of automation and functionality being implemented, the system architecture used including wayside systems (e.g., non-signaled, block signal, cab signal, etc.), and the degree of train control.

PTC System Development and Deployments

To facilitate the development and deployment of PTC systems, Office of Research and Development with close collaboration with FRA’s Office of Safety, freight and passenger railroads, and academia have funded and continue to fund many research projects.  These projects span research areas in Train Control, Communication, Grade Crossing Protection,  Trespass Prevention, and Simulation and Modeling. They are focused on developing standard interoperable technologies to be adopted by the railroads in their effort to deploy PTC systems.

Last updated: Wednesday, November 13th, 2019