Positive Train Control
UPDATE AS OF NOVEMBER 17, 2020
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.
NJ TRANSIT marked 100-percent completion of the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) 2018 year-end milestone of the 2020 implementation schedule for Positive Train Control (PTC). Criteria for this requirement included installation of equipment on locomotives and cab control cars, installation of 326 miles of wayside equipment including radios, transponders and poles, as well as initiating PTC testing and employee training. Throughout the course of 2019 and 2020, NJ TRANSIT will continue to install PTC equipment on the remaining locomotives and cab cars and testing PTC technology throughout our system.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 â€“ 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)