Union Pacific investing in Positive Train Control infrastructure

Dive Brief:

  • Class I Union Pacific Railroad (UP) will invest $923.1 million between Texas, California, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oregon as part of its $3.1 billion capital plan for 2017, American Shipper reported. 
  • Infrastructure and rail maintenance within the five states are part of the Positive Train Control (PTC) installation program.
  • The billion dollar capital plan was initially approved in early February, 2017.

Dive Insight:

PTC is designed to automatically stop a train before an accident. Specifically, PTC's aim is to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive train speed and train movement through misalignment of track switches. It also functions as a barrier to prevent unauthorized entry into work zones.

Since the PTC effort began in 2008, the Federal Railroad Association (FRA) has given approximately $716 million in grants to support it. Yet, significant challenges still exist for railroads attempting to comply with the mandate — not the least of which is the high capital investment required to upgrade 60,000 miles of track at a time when freight revenues are sluggish. Despite this hurdle, Union Pacific and BNSF appear to be leading the pack.

It remains unclear what will happen if rail lines miss the December 2018 deadline. Whether a second extension will be granted remains unknown. It is clear however that some lines are readying for a final push toward compliance.


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Filed Under: Freight