Positive Train Control (PTC)
NJ TRANSIT's highest priority is safety and the proper installation of Positive Train Control (PTC). As we progress with the implementation of this critical safety enhancement feature, it is important to remember that NJ TRANSIT remains a safe rail system and will continue to operate safely until PTC is fully implemented.
Through the remainder of the year, NJ TRANSIT will continue to work closely with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and our contractor (Parsons Transportation Group) to meet the federal statutory requirements by December 31, 2018.
For more information on NJ TRANSIT's PTC project, existing safety measures and rail schedule impacts, please click on any one of the links at the right of this page.
What is PTC?
Positive Train Control (PTC) is technology to enhance rail safety by monitoring and controlling train movements. Using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, Wi-Fi and high band radio transmission, PTC is capable of automatically controlling train speeds and movements, thereby reducing the risk of accidents due to human error.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, passed by Congress, requires the implementation of a PTC system on all non-exempt commuter railroads, including NJ TRANSIT. PTC is intended to prevent:
- Train-to-train collisions;
- Derailments caused by excessive speed;
- Unauthorized train movements in work zones; and
- Movement of trains through switches left in the wrong position.
As a new technology, PTC requires design, development, prototype testing, equipment retrofitting and system-wide track implementation.
How PTC Works
PTC networks enable real-time information sharing among locomotives, rail wayside devices, and a centralized office. The shared information includes train movement, position and speed; current speed restrictions; and the state of signal and switch devices. Real-time communication can account for changing track conditions, such as temporary speed restrictions when railroad employees are conducting track maintenance.
PTC is a computer-based technology that uses a communications system to
monitor and control train movements to minimize the potential for human error.
PTC on NJ TRANSIT's System
PTC systems feature computer-based communications and information technology designed to improve railroad safety. PTC will complement NJ TRANSIT's existing cab signaling system and Automatic Train Control (ATC) technology. Learn more about ATC by clicking here.
NJ TRANSIT's PTC technology, the ASES II System, uses on-board sensors, digital radio communications, track transponders and fixed wayside signal systems to send and receive a stream of data. The PTC system consists of three main elements:
- Radio transponders and other equipment onboard locomotives or cab control cars;
- Antennas, transponders and other equipment along the railroad right-of-way (ROW); and
- Computer servers and systems for the Rail Operations Center (ROC).
PTC's intraoperative communications allow the track, vehicles and the Rail Operations Center (ROC) to continually relay speed and location information to one another. Because of the technology's complexity, PTC implementation requires the development of vehicle prototypes to test the new system while we concurrently retrofit our existing fleet.
NJ TRANSIT's rail system includes 12 commuter rail lines, most operating on tracks shared with other freight and passenger railroads. On the heavily-travelled Northeast Corridor (NEC), which belongs to Amtrak, a different PTC system is being implemented. Although functionally similar, the various PTC systems will need to communicate with one another. The coordination required to ensure interoperability with NJ TRANSIT's five tenant railroads, including the two largest (Conrail and Norfolk Southern), adds significantly to the complexity of the project.
While PTC's safety benefits are significant, PTC implementation is a complex and lengthy process. Railroads, including NJ TRANSIT, must install, integrate and test:
- Communication systems;
- Hardware on locomotives and along the side of the track; and
- Software in the ROC, onboard the train and along the track.
PTC Progress (As of August 3, 2018)
NJ TRANSIT has made substantial progress since January 1, 2018. Since March 31, 2018, we've gone from a 13% project completion percentage to 58% complete! We continue to work with the FRA as our PTC implementation advances. We expect to meet the FRA's statutory requirements by the end of the year and, ultimately, receive their approval to have PTC fully implemented on our rail system by December 31, 2020.
In addition to the progress in the areas below, the FRA approved our most recent Positive Train Control Implementation Plan (PTCIP) on July 19, 2018. On June 26, 2018, the FRA granted conditional approval for our request to use substitute criteria under Title 49 United States Code (U.S.C.) § 20157(a)(3)(B)(vii)(II) that permits us to conduct field functionality testing on a 16.5-mile segment of track between Summit and Dover on the Morristown Line that is representative of NJ TRANSIT's main lines that are subject to the statutory mandate. We have successfully completed field testing on the six-mile track segment between Morristown and Denville on the Morristown Line.
While we are pleased with the amount of progress we've made in the last six months, we will continue moving forward aggressively with our installation efforts. We will also continue to vigilantly monitor installation rates and other aspects of PTC, and expeditiously manage and mitigate risks. We will provide regular updates below on our continued progress.
Existing Safety Systems & Initiatives
It is important to remember that NJ TRANSIT remains a safe rail system and will continue to operate safely until PTC is fully implemented. PTC is an advanced safety system that will serve to enhance NJ TRANSIT's existing speed enforcement technology, Automatic Train Control (ATC). Many people may not know that NJ TRANSIT was already operating with automated speed enforcement technology, or that we were a leader in safety among the nation's passenger railroads when this safety technology was first introduced.
What is ATC?
Railway wayside signal systems operate in a fail-safe mode to inform the locomotive engineer of the safe speed for each train. Opposing, following, and converging train movements are protected. Safe train operation depends on the engineer's compliance with signal indications.
ATC provides a higher level of safety by providing a check on the engineer's operation of the train. ATC ensures that the engineer is alert to each change in the displayed cab signal that requires a reduction in train speed. The engineer must acknowledge the change and also reduce speed to the required rate. Failure to do so will automatically cause the brakes to be applied, stopping the train.
NJ TRANSIT began to expand ATC beyond the previous North Jersey Coast Line installation following the Conrail-Amtrak accident at Chase, Maryland in January 1987. Systemwide ATC coverage at NJ TRANSIT was completed in 2008.
Beginning about 1995, ATC enhancements were introduced to enforce speed restrictions on curves. Additional curves and bridges were protected following accidents on other railroads that were caused by excessive speed on a curved track. All NJ TRANSIT curves, and bridges that require a reduction of more than 20 miles per hour from the maximum authorized approach-speed, were equipped with ATC by December 2016.
PTC is an additional enhancement of the existing ATC system. PTC will provide positive stop enforcement at interlocking signals and more precise enforcement of temporary and permanent speed restrictions.
Additional Safety Measures and Initiatives
Safety is NJ TRANSIT's highest priority. Each year, we invest more than $100 million to maintain our safety systems and promote a State of Good Repair for our fleet and infrastructure. Major safety initiatives include:
- Established in May 2014, the Office of System Safety (OSS) consolidated all agency safety functions, across all transit modes and in the workplace. OSS focuses on promoting the health and safety of the agency's customers and employees and preventing accidents and injuries. The OSS also coordinates and manages incident prevention efforts and develops a more rigorous safety culture. The OSS is an important organizational structure that complements our already existing operational protocols and technologies.
- The Rail Operations Center (ROC) in Kearny controls train movements, signals and switches and monitors the location and status of every locomotive throughout the system.
- Our trains employ operator safety devices including "alerters" and the so-called "dead man's switch." Both tools require the train engineer to stay engaged and alert Any failure to respond automatically triggers the brake, resulting in a complete vehicle stop.
- Starting with the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) initial roll-out in 2009, NJ TRANSIT has participated in the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS). Under the program, employees can confidentially report unsafe events or conditions to federal authorities.
- To maintain a State of Good Repair for our rail system, a specialized track geometry inspection vehicle examines every inch of our tracks once per month – a schedule that exceeds the quarterly federal requirements. Our railroad also conducts manual track inspections once per week.
- Safety sensitive employees with positive Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) screening are removed from service until a full sleep study can be conducted and they obtain the appropriate documentation attesting to the satisfactory results of treatment or the that condition is not present.
- Rail Operations implemented a new initiative which requires the conductor to ride in the front cab of trains, along with the engineer, when entering terminals in Hoboken, Penn Station New York, Atlantic City, Princeton, Gladstone and the Meadowlands Rail Station.
- Speed limits entering Hoboken, Atlantic City, Princeton and the Meadowlands Rail Station have been reduced from 10 mph to 5 mph as a proactive measure.
- Inward & outward facing cameras on 100% of locomotives and cab cars
- Following a thorough analysis, NJ TRANSIT will be replacing all of the existing bumper blocks with sliding friction bumper blocks at Hoboken Terminal, the Atlantic City Rail Terminal and the Meadowlands Rail Station – all stub-end stations.
- Existing bumper blocks will stop trains at speeds up to 5 mph
- Energy absorbing sliding friction bumper blocks to be installed (0.15 g max @ 10 mph)
Temporary Rail Schedule Adjustments Required to Advance PTC Equipment Installation
While NJ TRANSIT continues to install Positive Train Control (PTC) equipment on its rail fleet, adjustments to weekday schedules are needed to allow for hardware components to be installed on locomotives and cab cars.
As of Monday, June 4, some weekday trains were temporarily discontinued or had changes to their origin and/or destinations. These changes primarily impact customers along the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line, Morris & Essex Lines and Pascack Valley Line and may affect customers connecting with these services. Other trains throughout the system also had schedule and/or station stop changes. These schedule adjustments are temporary and will be restored in early 2019. There are no changes planned for weekend service.
Beginning Wednesday, September 5, all rail service on the Atlantic City Rail Line (ACRL) will be temporarily suspended, and on September 10, off-peak, one-seat Raritan Valley Line service to/from Penn Station New York (PSNY) will temporarily terminate/originate at Newark Penn Station. RVL customers will be receiving the same level of service to/from Penn Station New York, but they will be required to transfer to/from New York trains at Newark Penn Station.
If you regularly travel on one of these rail lines, click on the link related to your rail line below for specific information on your train service and alternate travel options. Other station stop changes will be shown in the updated timetable for that rail line. We strongly encourage you to view the full timetable to obtain all of your travel options, and click on “Travel Tips” below for some additional helpful travel information.
If you need assistance planning your trip, call Customer Service at (973) 275-5555. Our representatives are available daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Automated schedule information is accessible 24/7.
Thank you for your continued patience as we work toward a safer commute.