Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties

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As recently reported in the news, Congress and the President agreed to a 3 year extension on the deadline for freight lines and inner city and commuter rail systems to meet the mandate to install a Positive Train Control (PTC) system. While the additional time will give us a margin of comfort to ensure we can fully stress test our system, complete vehicle equipment installations, and conduct Crew training we continue to work with the same intensity as though our deadline was still December 31st because this is a priority initiative with enormous safety benefits.

There are only a select few agencies positioned to meet the original mandate timeline. One of them happens to be Amtrak who may rollout PTC about the same time as SEPTA or possibly even a bit sooner. Given how much of our Regional Rail service operates on Amtrak track, having our PTC system in full operation will only enhance the safety of our service on their right of way network.

With construction substantially complete and infrastructure testing on-going, recently we've been focusing on:

  • On Board Vehicle System Installations
  • Engineer Training
    • Equipment Familiarity and Operating Rules
    • Hands on Train Operations

On Board Vehicle System Installations

To date, work to install the computer based PTC equipment is 100% complete on our Silverliner IV fleet (231 cars) and we are 70% complete on the Silverliner V fleet (120 cars).

We know that through the summer, select Regional Rail Lines and trips continued to experience car shortages when equipment was taken out of revenue service to complete the installation work. We've worked hard to minimize these impacts to customers with the result of fewer daily shortages since early September.

Engineer Training

Just as it's difficult to take cars out of service to install equipment, scheduling Crew Training around the demands of a Regional Rail system with record breaking ridership is equally challenging. We know the best way to prepare our Engineers and Crews to operate your train in a PTC controlled system is with hands-on training using non-revenue vehicles operating out on the system. We are working to accelerate the training program for our 193 Engineer and 255 Conductors and Assistant Conductors to ensure that everyone and everything will be ready at rollout.

System Testing

Bringing PTC to SEPTA requires changes to 4 main system components - Vehicles, Communications, Signals, and the Control Center - and each has to be fully functioning and integrated with the other. In the course of operating and testing equipment we have uncovered some failures in component parts, in-service equipment failures, and areas where software adjustments are needed. Uncovering these issues and taking steps to correct or recalibrate is absolutely necessary, which is why we're maintaining such a rigorous schedule of train and equipment testing all across our system. In addition to this work, additional software changes need to be completed and uploaded in the Control Center so that we can begin stress testing this part of the PTC system. We're working hard to control any travel impacts you may still encounter, but they will still happen occasionally and we want you to be aware of this.We've made significant progress in proving the reliability of the system, which means there is the strong potential, with FRA approval for our final roll-out plan, to have PTC in operation by the end of calendar 2015 or early in 2016.

We're pushing to get the work done but that being said, we will never implement this or any safety program until we know that it's functioning properly and does not create any unintended Operational safety issues in the process. All of this work is designed to enhance travel safety for our customers, crews, and equipment and we need to follow our program installation and testing schedule to the last task to make certain the system works properly, so we ask for your continued patience.

They say a picture or in this instance a video is worth 1,000 words so we made a short film to give you a better idea of how PTC works. It also offers you an insider's view of the Engineers cab and what they will see and hear operating a SEPTA train when PTC is fully launched.

Next Update: PTC Rollout plan details

Why PTC is so important to safety in and around the SEPTA System
  • Regulates train separation
  • Avoids train-to-train collisions at track crossover locations
  • Enforces line speed continuously including temporary speed restrictions
  • Protects rail worker wayside safety zones
  • Regulates grade crossings that are out of service
  • Prevents a train from running over a mainline switch set in the wrong position

Previous Updates

June 2015 Positive Train Control Update