The head of the Federal Railroad Administration identified SunRail as one of nine passenger railroads that are running behind schedule on the installation of the mandatory high-tech system designed to reduce or prevent, derailments and collisions between trains.
Federal Railroad Administrator Ronald Batory offered that negative assessment to a Congressional subcommittee in mid-September while delivering a progress report on the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) systems on railroads throughout the nation.
|SunRail PTC test train|
In addition to SunRail, Batory also named the New Mexico Rail Runner Express; Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority; New Jersey Transit; Altamont Corridor Express; Maryland Area Regional Commuter; Trinity Railway Express; Caltrain and Tri Rail (in south Florida).
SunRail CEO Nicola Liquori responded to Batory’s concerns in a letter that shows SunRail is actually on track to meet deadlines for the installation and implementation of PTC.
Her letter is excellent news for passengers who ride SunRail, and the crews that operate trains.
Several major crashes that resulted in dozens of deaths and thousands of injuries could be prevented by PTC.
PTC technology prevents trains from going too fast and prevents collisions between trains that are on the same tracks. However, PTC cannot prevent crashes caused by pedestrians or cars that trespass on the tracks.
The PTC system is expensive and complicated. It requires the installation of high-tech hardware and software in trains, along the tracks and in the operations center for the railroad. The system must interface with all the trains that use the tracks. SunRail owns the track corridor from Poinciana in Osceola County to DeLand in Volusia County. Those tracks are also used by Amtrak and freight trains.
In her letter to Washington, Ms. Liquori wrote: “Quarterly progress reporting lags with respect to the Central Florida Rail Corridor’s (the legal name for SunRail) actual progress. CFRC has progressed ahead of schedule with respect to planned hardware installation. As of Sept. 17, 2018, CFRC has achieved PTC installation across the following segments:”
· Radio towers
· Operations headquarters
· Wayside interface units. These units are installed along the actual track corridor. At the time of the letter, technicians had installed 80 of 86 trackside units.
In addition, SunRail is training employees on how the system works.
It’s also noteworthy that in early September, SunRail assembled a special train (shown in the accompanying photo) that included 2 locomotives, 4 coach cars and one cab car (where the engineer sits to operate southbound trains) to test the PTC system over a weekend between the Sanford and Longwood stations.
Liquori wrote that she anticipates that the PTC system will be fully implemented by the fourth quarter of 2019. Full implementation is dependent on certification by federal officials.
“The mission of the Florida Department of Transportation is to provide a safe and efficient transportation system throughout the state, including along our rail corridor,” Liquori wrote in the letter.
“We understand that the successful implementation of Positive Train Control, as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, is integral to fulfilling our mission. The safety of our passengers, employees and the general public is our top priority. As such, the implementation of PTC on our corridor and our fleet is of paramount importance,” she wrote.