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Positive Train Control

Positive Train Control News Releases

Project Overview

NCTD is committed to making our rails as safe as possible for our passengers and neighbors. Complying with all federal regulations is one part of ensuring that our railway remains safe. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that freight and commuter rail lines adopt PTC by 2015. In late 2015, Congress extended the deadline by at least three years to December 31, 2018. PTC is an integrated command, control, communications, and information system that controls train movements, thus promoting safety of all who use the rails.

Human error remains a major cause of some of the worst train accidents in U.S. history. PTC technology, however, prevents many types of human error from causing accidents. For example, through PTC technology, if a train engineer does not slow a train that is in danger of collision, then the train slows itself. By using global positioning system (GPS) technology, digital communications and on-board computers, PTC technology continuously monitors train locations, automatically overrides dangerous train movements and will stop a train if the crew cannot.


Implementation is complete!

NCTD’s implementation of PTC is now complete. All of the subsystems of each PTC segment have been installed and tested. NCTD tested in Revenue Service Demonstration (RSD) which was the final testing of all of the subsystems. NCTD’s initiation of RSD entailed operating revenue (passenger carrying) COASTER trains with PTC in operation.

After testing occurred, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) examined and certified the PTC system and operation. On December 27, 2018, NCTD notified the FRA of full implementation of the system. And on December 31, 2018, the FRA acknowledged receipt of NCTD’s letter for full implementation of the PTC – one of only four railroads in the country to accomplish this by the deadline.

How Does it Work?

PTC is a predictive and proactive technology that detects upcoming conditions and is able to stop the train when needed. PTC technical architecture is comprised of five key segments:

  • Office
  • Wayside
  • On-Board
  • Roadway Worker
  • Communications

The office segment has PTC servers and databases which store track information, train locations, work zones, and speed restrictions.

The wayside segment issues movement authorities to locomotives based on information received from wayside systems, location information from trains, and work status from roadway segments.

The communications segment includes the fiber optic cables, cellular network, 220MHz radio system, and GPS. The communications segment provides the communication path between the office, track elements, trains, and roadway workers.

NCTD constructed a PTC test and training facility. The test and training facility is equipped with all PTC elements and will perform end-to-end testing before and after NCTD’s PTC system is commissioned. NCTD will also use this facility to familiarize train operators and maintenance staff with the requirements of PTC and to test hardware and software modifications. Equipment used to train staff on PTC offers a simulated view of the rail tracks, as captured below.

View the Interactive Simulator

Project Timeline
December 2018
BNSF & Pacific Sun begin PTC Revenue Service Operation; NCTD sends full implementation letter to the FRA; FRA acknowledges NCTD’s full implementation of PTC
November 2018
Amtrak begins PTC Revenue Service Operations on the San Diego subdivision
October 2018
Interoperable Revenue Service begins with Metrolink
September 2018
PTC system is commissioned into revenue service with PTC System Certification
December 2017
NCTD rolls out Extended RSD on all trains
September 2017
NCTD requests certification from FRA (excluding Tenants) & completes PTC System Safety Certification and Safety Plan Submittals
July 2017
NCTD begins testing PTC in Revenue Service Demonstration (RSD)
May 2016
FRA-witnessed testing begins
March 2014
NCTD begins PTC system training
November 2013
NCTD begins PTC system testing and commissioning
August 2012
Assembly of NCTD’s PTC sub-system components begins
August 2011
NCTD awards the PTC vendor contract to Herzog Technologies, Inc. and begins design of the PTC system
April 2010
FRA approves NCTD’s PTC implementation plan
August 2011
NCTD issues a request for proposals (RFP) for the vendor/consultant component of the project
January 2010
The FRA issues its final rule requiring railroads to install PTC technology.
October 2008
NCTD establishes a steering committee to proactively develop a PTC program.
October 2008
The Rail Safety and Improvement Act of 2008 is signed into law, requiring installation of PTC systems on all commuter rail lines by December 31, 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is PTC important to San Diego County?

San Diego County benefits from the PTC system because all trains, including Amtrak, Metrolink, and freight trains, use the PTC system when traveling on NCTD’s rail corridor.

PTC improves railroad safety by significantly reducing the probability of collisions between trains, casualties to roadway workers, and accidents that occur due to speeding.

When will the PTC system be ready for use?

PTC was fully implemented by December 31, 2018 – one of only four railroads in the country to meet this deadline.

Where can I learn more about PTC?
How much does PTC cost and where is the money coming from?

The total cost was $87,292,969. NCTD secured 30% of the funding from federal sources, 67% of the funding from state sources, and the remaining 3% of the funding from local sources.

Does PTC have News Releases?