GAO: Positive Train Control deadline for railroads must be extended

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The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that shows that the deadline for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) technology must be extended because most U.S. railroads can't meet the deadline.

The GAO report cited a variety of challenges that both commuter and freight railroads face in applying PTC technology, and said railroads that participated in the report need between one and five years to finish installing the new technology. The current deadline is Dec. 31.

“This GAO report confirms that the PTC mandate is not achievable, and extending the deadline is essential to preventing significant disruptions of both passenger and freight-rail service across the country,” U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said. “I am committed to working with Senator Thune and our colleagues to address the clear need for an extension, and to ensuring that railroads implement this important-but-complicated safety technology in a responsible manner.”

In addition, the GAO report said the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) supervision of PTC implementation is inadequate to correctly manage each railroad’s progress. The GAO made recommendations for the FRA to create a plan that would hold railroads responsible for their PTC progress.

“Passenger and freight railroads need time beyond the current deadline to finish implementation of a complex system that relies on new technology,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said. “Failure to extend this legal deadline would create significant hardships for customers and passengers who rely on railroads. Passing an extension that includes meaningful accountability for PTC implementation is the best thing Congress can do to enhance safety and avert a chaotic situation that would hurt our economy much more than the recent West Coast ports backup.”

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U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

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