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Amtrak CEO says passenger trains may not run over track without PTC

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How the business about trackage charges and the NEC Commission play out is a completely different thing and has nothing to do with the PTC related stuff.

 

My guess is that the entire thing is a negotiating posture and does not reflect what will actually happen come Jan 1, 2019 at all.

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And Southwest Chief except for La Junta to Albuquerque or perhaps Isleta (of which la Junta to somewhere in NM is BNSF that is not compliant). Also Illinois Zephyr.

 

In the Q3 '17 report BNSF said it was non compliant in 10 segments (11%) consisting of about 1,207 miles (11%)

Interesting. Brings to mind the rerouting on the Southern Transcom through Amarillo/Clovis/Belen that saw so much discussion here a couple of years ago. But I know from the talk of local BNSF people that they never wanted Amtrak on that route.

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If FRA agrees then I would be very surprised if Amtrak would overrule FRA and still refuse to operate. If they do that could be indicative of Amtrak administration's desire to use this as an opportunity to prune the LD network. but I don;t believe that is on the cards.

 

 

Hmmm....that is almost the perfect excuse to curtail long distance, particularly if you've never really wrapped your mind around the idea. Sounds like Amtrak 2.0 indeed. :ph34r:

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This seems more like posturing to try to get congress to act than a convenient way to target the long distance service. This would also affect a significant amount of state-supported corridor routes and not just long distance trains and some of the territories Mr. Anderson directly mentioned affect corridor routes and not LD. A big one local to me is the Vermonter which would most certainly be axed with such a policy. NECR is exempt from PTC. Would also flush all the money spent on the Connecticut River line that Mass did down the drain as I believe that is also PTC exempt since its still operated by Pan Am even though Mass physically bought it. Vermonter would be dead along with any hope of Montreal restoration. Train would likely have to be truncated to a Regional train between WDC and SPG.

Edited by lordsigma

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It seems like political posturing, because why would a new CEO want to decimate his company. That certainly would hurt his reputation for the future that he couldn't grow the business. Those few in Congress who side with Amtrak are being warned that something needs to happen to keep Amtrak alive and to grow the business. Also, he put on notice those in Congress wanting a profitable operation, their help with the host railroads is needed. I do not think this is a red flag to passengers that you only have have until January 1st to ride on Amtrak.

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Mr. Anderson's written testimony can be found HERE.

So, to quote the crucial bits:

...It is now clear that we are likely to encounter four different scenarios where PTC is not yet operational by

the end of the year.

 

First, there will be carriers that have made sufficient progress to apply to FRA for an al-

ternative PTC implementation schedule under the law. In these instances, Amtrak’s equipment

will be ready for PTC operation, but additional work, testing or approvals are still required by the

host railroad before the system is considered functional. We believe a significant number of

routes outside of the NEC will face this situation. The question we must ask ourselves is

whether we continue to operate over such routes until PTC is turned on and if so, what additional

safety protections are appropriate to reduce risks?

 

Second, there will be carriers over which we operate who appear unlikely to achieve suf-

ficient progress to apply for an alternative PTC implementation schedule by year’s end. For any

such route segments, Amtrak will suspend operations until such time as the carrier becomes com-

pliant with the law.

 

Third, there are areas over which we operate for which there is an FRA “Mainline Track

Exclusion” in place exempting that segment from the PTC requirements based on the low levels

of freight and passenger train traffic or the presence of low-speed operations, such as in yards

and terminals. We are currently reviewing our policy on operating passenger trains on Exclu-

sions to determine whether we have adequate safety mitigation practices in place for each

territory and in certain areas, where signal systems are not in place, we will reconsider whether

we operate at all.

 

Lastly, there may be railroads that operate over Amtrak tracks in the NEC which may not

have sufficient PTC-commissioned rolling stock by the December 31, 2018 deadline to operatenormal services. Under the present rules, Amtrak cannot permit non-compliant equipment to be

used over our railroad after the deadline and we will be working closely with our partners and

the FRA to determine the best way to address this situation.

 

Mr. Anderson is saying different things about these four situations.

 

For the first situation (an approved extension of time), I believe Mr. Anderson is saying that he will keep trains running but add additional safety measures until PTC is active.

 

The second situation is carriers who will be breaking the law plain and simple, and it's a warning to those carriers. I'm not sure who is most likely to be in that situation: perhaps MBTA on the Northside (Downeaster line) if it doesn't get its act together, perhaps Metro-North, perhaps RailRunner, perhaps Terminal Railroad Association of St Louis. Most of the potential carriers in this siuation are commuter lines; the fact is that most of these commuter railroads will have to shut down their own operations if they don't comply with the law -- so they will probably do whatever they can to comply. I'm not sure how many freight hosts (if any) are in this situation; probably none of the Class Is, and I know that matters were resolved for Kansas City Terminal, so maybe TRRA in St. Louis, and maybe Pan Am in Massachusetts?

 

The third situation is the one most of y'all are talking about: the lines which are exempt from PTC due to low traffic or yard status or whatever. I read Mr. Anderson as saying that he will continue operations on such areas which *do* have signalling systems -- adding additional safety rules to stop things like the Hoboken crash -- but will probably discontinue operations on totally unsignalled "dark territory" lines. I think almost all of the routes are actually signalled. The Moffat Tunnel line and the Raton Pass line and the California Coast line are all signalled, so they'll presumably continue. Everything on the LSL route is signalled from end to end. Does anyone know the status of the Minnesota Commercial in Minneapolis-St Paul? I think it has signals. Anyway, is there any "dark territory" on which Amtrak actually operates right now? I can't think of any.

 

Approximately 1 percent of our current or planned routes transit through dark territory, totaling 222 miles in Indiana, Maine, New York, Quebec, and Vermont.

Oh-kay. Where are these tracks?

 

-- The Maine dark territory has to be the Downeaster. Pan Am is also a PTC laggard, so the Downeaster is at risk if Maine doesn't step up to pay for the upgrades.

-- The Quebec dark territory has to be the Adirondack. A route also planned for the Vermonter extension to Montreal. Some state or province would have to pay for these upgrades.

-- The New York dark territory is most likely the Ethan Allen Express. Though it might be the Adirondack. I believe the LSL and Empire Service routes are fully signalled.

-- The Vermont dark territory is either the Vermonter or the Ethan Allen Express. Considering those and the costs in Quebec, Vermont is going to have a bill to pay.

-- I have no idea what the Indiana dark territory is. All I know for sure is that it isn't the LSL/CL route. It probably isn't the Detroit route either. It could be the Pere Marquette but I doubt it (since there's no dark territory in Michigan). I'm guessing it's the Cardinal/Hoosier State route? The west end of that route is a mess of undermaintained trackage.

 

But he's leaving the door open to keep running in dark territory (or to signal it, if it's a short section):

Based on hazard analyses and mitigation options, the application of new technologies like switch

position indicators; altered operating practices; signal system and PTC investments or rerouting

or route abandonments may all be appropriate for such dark territory.

 

I think perhaps the most significant meaning of the third situation is that planned signal outages, such as the one on CSX, will cause train cancellation in the future (just as would be done for bridge outages). Except:

 

We are changing our policies on operating on host railroad territories with temporarily

inoperable signal systems. While we are evaluating two different approaches, they both boil

down to reducing speed significantly in these circumstances in advance of known hazards.

...maybe they'll just slow down in this situation.

 

The fourth situation is directed at Amtrak's tenants and is a direct order to NJT, MARC, VRE, et alia to get their locomotives equipped by the deadline. (SEPTA's already finished.) Since the locomotive side is the simple side, and ACSES is way easier to implement than I-ETMS, I'm pretty sure the commuter lines will do so.

 

 

-----

So, Maine, Vermont, and possibly New York and Quebec are facing large bills to get their signal systems up to snuff. Based on past history, I think everyone except Quebec will pay to get it done, probably with grumbling -- but do write your state legislators and governor to tell them to pay for it!

 

The two routes which seem to me to be actually at risk of discontinuation are the Adirondack service from the border to Montreal (due to Quebec's historic unwillingness to support cross-border routes), and the Cardinal/Hoosier State (due to Indiana's historic unwillingness to support any upgrades). Both Quebec and Indiana have shown signs of attitude change so both of these might be saved, but I wouldn't reckon on good odds.

Edited by neroden

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Is this GOP administration is dead set on eliminating programs that service quality of life systems? Do they want to defund Amtrak altogether?

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Mostly what Anderson has said is that Amtrak will follow the law and consider taking extra care in waivered and possibly even exempt territories, if one takes a minimalist interpretation of his statements.

 

Now once one projects ones own fears and concerns to embellish the semantics of his statement, one can come to all sorts of progressively less supportable and believable conclusions.

 

But all that is quite separable from any of the GOP budget shenanigans and are most likely unrelated anyway.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

Edited by jis

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Democrat or Republican, they are self centered egomaniacs who do not want to rock the Good Old Boy lives they all have right now. Do the political rhetoric for the media then all get together for drinks and party every night and get paid big big bucks, lifetime pension and healthcare. So why care about taking a chance on getting involved in passing or not passing controversial legislation.

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Mr. Anderson's written testimony can be found HERE.

So, to quote the crucial bits:

...It is now clear that we are likely to encounter four different scenarios where PTC is not yet operational by

the end of the year.

 

First, there will be carriers that have made sufficient progress to apply to FRA for an al-

ternative PTC implementation schedule under the law. In these instances, Amtrak’s equipment

will be ready for PTC operation, but additional work, testing or approvals are still required by the

host railroad before the system is considered functional. We believe a significant number of

routes outside of the NEC will face this situation. The question we must ask ourselves is

whether we continue to operate over such routes until PTC is turned on and if so, what additional

safety protections are appropriate to reduce risks?

 

Second, there will be carriers over which we operate who appear unlikely to achieve suf-

ficient progress to apply for an alternative PTC implementation schedule by year’s end. For any

such route segments, Amtrak will suspend operations until such time as the carrier becomes com-

pliant with the law.

 

Third, there are areas over which we operate for which there is an FRA “Mainline Track

Exclusion” in place exempting that segment from the PTC requirements based on the low levels

of freight and passenger train traffic or the presence of low-speed operations, such as in yards

and terminals. We are currently reviewing our policy on operating passenger trains on Exclu-

sions to determine whether we have adequate safety mitigation practices in place for each

territory and in certain areas, where signal systems are not in place, we will reconsider whether

we operate at all.

 

Lastly, there may be railroads that operate over Amtrak tracks in the NEC which may not

have sufficient PTC-commissioned rolling stock by the December 31, 2018 deadline to operatenormal services. Under the present rules, Amtrak cannot permit non-compliant equipment to be

used over our railroad after the deadline and we will be working closely with our partners and

the FRA to determine the best way to address this situation.

 

Mr. Anderson is saying different things about these four situations.

 

For the first situation (an approved extension of time), I believe Mr. Anderson is saying that he will keep trains running but add additional safety measures until PTC is active.

 

The second situation is carriers who will be breaking the law plain and simple, and it's a warning to those carriers. I'm not sure who is most likely to be in that situation: perhaps MBTA on the Northside (Downeaster line) if it doesn't get its act together, perhaps Metro-North, perhaps RailRunner, perhaps Terminal Railroad Association of St Louis. Most of the potential carriers in this siuation are commuter lines; the fact is that most of these commuter railroads will have to shut down their own operations if they don't comply with the law -- so they will probably do whatever they can to comply. I'm not sure how many freight hosts (if any) are in this situation; probably none of the Class Is, and I know that matters were resolved for Kansas City Terminal, so maybe TRRA in St. Louis, and maybe Pan Am in Massachusetts?

 

The third situation is the one most of y'all are talking about: the lines which are exempt from PTC due to low traffic or yard status or whatever. I read Mr. Anderson as saying that he will continue operations on such areas which *do* have signalling systems -- adding additional safety rules to stop things like the Hoboken crash -- but will probably discontinue operations on totally unsignalled "dark territory" lines. I think almost all of the routes are actually signalled. The Moffat Tunnel line and the Raton Pass line and the California Coast line are all signalled, so they'll presumably continue. Everything on the LSL route is signalled from end to end. Does anyone know the status of the Minnesota Commercial in Minneapolis-St Paul? I think it has signals. Anyway, is there any "dark territory" on which Amtrak actually operates right now? I can't think of any.

 

Approximately 1 percent of our current or planned routes transit through dark territory, totaling 222 miles in Indiana, Maine, New York, Quebec, and Vermont.

Oh-kay. Where are these tracks?

 

-- The Maine dark territory has to be the Downeaster. Pan Am is also a PTC laggard, so the Downeaster is at risk if Maine doesn't step up to pay for the upgrades.

-- The Quebec dark territory has to be the Adirondack. A route also planned for the Vermonter extension to Montreal. Some state or province would have to pay for these upgrades.

-- The New York dark territory is most likely the Ethan Allen Express. Though it might be the Adirondack. I believe the LSL and Empire Service routes are fully signalled.

-- The Vermont dark territory is either the Vermonter or the Ethan Allen Express. Considering those and the costs in Quebec, Vermont is going to have a bill to pay.

-- I have no idea what the Indiana dark territory is. All I know for sure is that it isn't the LSL/CL route. It probably isn't the Detroit route either. It could be the Pere Marquette but I doubt it (since there's no dark territory in Michigan). I'm guessing it's the Cardinal/Hoosier State route? The west end of that route is a mess of undermaintained trackage.

 

But he's leaving the door open to keep running in dark territory (or to signal it, if it's a short section):

Based on hazard analyses and mitigation options, the application of new technologies like switch

position indicators; altered operating practices; signal system and PTC investments or rerouting

or route abandonments may all be appropriate for such dark territory.

 

I think perhaps the most significant meaning of the third situation is that planned signal outages, such as the one on CSX, will cause train cancellation in the future (just as would be done for bridge outages). Except:

 

We are changing our policies on operating on host railroad territories with temporarily

inoperable signal systems. While we are evaluating two different approaches, they both boil

down to reducing speed significantly in these circumstances in advance of known hazards.

...maybe they'll just slow down in this situation.

 

The fourth situation is directed at Amtrak's tenants and is a direct order to NJT, MARC, VRE, et alia to get their locomotives equipped by the deadline. (SEPTA's already finished.) Since the locomotive side is the simple side, and ACSES is way easier to implement than I-ETMS, I'm pretty sure the commuter lines will do so.

 

 

-----

So, Maine, Vermont, and possibly New York and Quebec are facing large bills to get their signal systems up to snuff. Based on past history, I think everyone except Quebec will pay to get it done, probably with grumbling -- but do write your state legislators and governor to tell them to pay for it!

 

The two routes which seem to me to be actually at risk of discontinuation are the Adirondack service from the border to Montreal (due to Quebec's historic unwillingness to support cross-border routes), and the Cardinal/Hoosier State (due to Indiana's historic unwillingness to support any upgrades). Both Quebec and Indiana have shown signs of attitude change so both of these might be saved, but I wouldn't reckon on good odds.

 

Vermonter route is dark on the NECR tracks between St. Albans and White River Junction. From White River Junction down to Northfield it is signaled. Both sections are PTC exempt. I don't know about Ethan Allen Express.

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That article is a pretty pathetic piece of pro-freight-railroad propaganda. The private railroads blew off the 2015 deadline, but more importantly they blew off the *1940s* ICC recommendation and decades of NTSB recommendations. The fact that they're finally, tardily, getting to the multiply-extended deadline is not impressive. And he talks to UP, which is doing OK, but not to CSX, which is likely to blow the next deadline too.

 

The writer's an idiot. He's letting his own biases color his article. There's also no information new to me in the article, and it leaves me even more disgusted with CSX.

Edited by neroden

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I actually found the article quite informative and specific, being I suppose not as all knowing as some others here ;)

 

BTW, it is not at all clear that the Canadians can be forced to abide by US law and FRA/NTSB directives. Canadians actually allow 100mph operation under track warrant in dark territory appropriately certified by the appropriate Canadian authorities. I doubt that Anderson will try to create an international incident. He is basically just saying that he will follow the law and if needed apply some judicious additional precaution in cooperation with the local authorities and laws.

 

Looks like at least one passenger service is ending apparently due to PTC, though it is not exactly clear what "safety rules" is being referred to in the article.

 

http://www.standard.net/Transportation/2018/02/17/Pleasant-View-FrontRunner-station-to-close-in-August-due-to-new-safety-rules.html

 

So never says never I guess.

 

My suspicion is that UTA operates under PTC compliant E-ATC on its own tracks and has no intention to add I-ETMS, to its equipment or extending E-ATC for the pleasure of using UP tracks for just one stop carrying 35 passengers each day.

 

Also BTW CSX has all its locomotives equipped and 97% of its employees trained as of 3Q 2017, has its plan conditionally certified by the FRA and expects to have way more than 50% of its route miles under I-ETMS by December 2018 ( the requirement for getting waiver to 2020 on the rest). It is actually way ahead of NS as far as that goes. ;) This from the FRA PTC Dashboard.

 

Also incidentally, NS does not plan to have I-ETMS fully in service on the Water Level Route between Toledo and Chicago before 2020. It will of course have a waiver for that period.

Edited by jis

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From the article:

 

 

“They way over-designed it. They put in additional functionality that isn’t required in the FRA regulations,” Ron Lindsey says. Lindsey is an independent railroad consultant and the architect of an early PTC system who says PTC wiring for intermediate signals is pointless since the signals will become redundant."

 

I don't think that's true. It is my understanding that PTC knows where the front of the train is (locomotive, cab car), but not the rear. So a train following another one can't rely on PTC to stop the movement the way automatic signals do. Sure the dispatcher can set up restricted authority limits for the following train, but that'll never be as efficient as automatic block signals.

 

jb

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I was reading Fred Frailey's blog on the Train's web page:"Au revoir, AMTRAK! Its Official!" Basically, the PTC line drawn in the sand is blessing for the Host Railroads in that they have an excuse to delay PTC until 2020 to get rid of AMTRAK.

 

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/archive/2018/02/19/au-revoir-amtrak-the-official-word.aspx

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My suspicion is that UTA operates under PTC compliant E-ATC on its own tracks and has no intention to add I-ETMS, to its equipment or extending E-ATC for the pleasure of using UP tracks for just one stop carrying 35 passengers each day.

 

 

That seems stupid. I wonder why UTA didn't go with the same system that UP is using.

 

jb

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First because it did not exist when UTA set their system up, and possibly also because they generally do not use UP tracks. Their system (tracks and dispatching) is completely separate from UP since they wanted to have the freedom to operate possibly non-FRA compliant equipment if needed. Turns out that eventually they did not go there.

 

There are several agencies that use variants of E-ATC, including Class IIs like FECR/Brightline as their implementation of PTC.

 

California HSR will also not be using I-ETMS because it does not scale to 200mph. They will most likely be using some variant of ERTMS L2. Somewhat the same reason that Amtrak uses ACSES and not the then non-existent I-ETMS.I suspect Texas HSR will also not use I-ETMS.

 

Actually there are two segments of the NEC where both ACSES and I-ETMS (NS variant) is deployed as I understand it, to allow run through of NS freight (e.g. from Perryville to Bayview yard).

 

Of course that is small potatoes compared to what exists on the LGV Est in France which has parallel deployment of TVM-430 and ERTMS L2 for operation at upto 200mph.

 

BTW, did you know that I-ETMS by itself only knows where the head end of the train is but has no idea where the tail end of the train is? It requires an underlying train integrity system to provide that information, whether it be track circuit or axle counter at block boundaries or whatever.

Edited by jis

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Looks like at least one passenger service is ending apparently due to PTC, though it is not exactly clear what "safety rules" is being referred to in the article.

 

http://www.standard.net/Transportation/2018/02/17/Pleasant-View-FrontRunner-station-to-close-in-August-due-to-new-safety-rules.html

This is IMO really not much to do with PTC. As is made very clear in the article, this is due to Union Pacific owning this stretch of tracks, and Union Pacific having a bad attitude towards passenger service. The issues with the Pleasant View station has been ongoing since its opening, with an unacceptable schedule, high costs, and low ridership due to Union Pacific attitude; PTC merely provides an excuse.

 

UTA is now dead set on getting its own right-of-way and tracks for *all* operations (they already have them for most operations), as they say in the article. And they're quite right. The only long-term solution is to get rid of private freight operator ownership of tracks, as has already been done in most of the world. Toronto figured this out a decade back and has been spending billions getting their GO Transit tracks out of the grasp of CN.

 

The Class I freights really shot themselves in the foot by choosing the I-ETMS system, which is essentially defective and will have to be replaced with something ERTMS-like eventually. I have approximately zero respect for the competence of most of their managements. I could run most of those companies better.

 

Also incidentally, NS does not plan to have I-ETMS fully in service on the Water Level Route between Toledo and Chicago before 2020. It will of course have a waiver for that period.

Buy. The. Tracks.

Edited by neroden

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