Metra meets major Positive Train Control milestone

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Metra marked a major milestone in the installation of an important rail safety system Monday.

The system is called Positive Train control, or PTC.

Making trains safe is time consuming, complex and costly. Equipping trains with Positive Train Control technology, known as PTC, has been a big challenge for Metra and every commuter and freight line in the country.

"As far as an undertaking as an industry, it is probably the largest for this century," said Ronald Batory, Federal Railroad Administration Administrator

A few years ago, deadly train accidents prompted Congress to mandate that every rail line nationwide install PTC by the end of 2018. Monday, Metra celebrated the completion of the installation phase, but there a long way to go before its 400 million dollar system is up and running.

"You don't just flip a switch and it's on today, you have to go through miles and miles of diagnostic testing,"said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski.
The testing has resulted in some delays on certain lines.

PTC is a computer based braking system designed to take over the operations of a train in case of human error. It works by recognizing the speed and weight of trains and topography.

"All that info goes into the software and calculate braking distances so the train is far enough apart so they won't collide, " said Batory.

The PTC mandate requires every train operating on each others' tracks to communicate with one another, which Metra says is another challenge,

"It's the time its gonna take to physically try to get 1400 trains and 14 railroads within this region to communicate and and inter operate seamlessly together," Derwinski said.

Because Chicago has the most complex railroad system in the country, it will take another two years before Metra and all rail systems are operational with Positive Train Control.
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