Congress averts PTC-related US rail shutdown

OREANDA-NEWS. October 29, 2015. The US Senate today unanimously approved a three-year extension of the 31 December deadline for railroads to implement positive train control (PTC), likely bringing to an end a tense period of uncertainty regarding the nation's freight and passenger rail service.

Railroads had warned of widespread service disruptions if Congress did not extend the deadline it set in a 2008 rail safety law. Railroads said they could not operate in violation of the law after the deadline, and would be subject to federal fines and penalties. Over the past few months tension grew as the deadline approached and railroads began warning customers that tens of thousands of miles of rail lines would shut down.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) in floor debate today said that attaching the extension to a short-term funding bill was "a terrible precedent." But senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) argued in favor of it.

The Senate today approved the extension through the end of 2018 as part of a short-term bill that funds surface transportation through 20 November. The House passed the legislation yesterday, three days before highway and transit programs expire, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

Both chambers are working on long-term transportation funding bills. But the PTC extension gives railroads at least three more years to implement the computerized safety system estimated to cost \\$9bn across the rail network.

The Association of American Railroads said "the rail industry remains fully committed to being fully accountable and transparent in completing PTC and we look forward to working with Congress to get a broader long-term surface transportation bill to the desk of the President expeditiously."