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NCTD Receives Conditional Certification of its PTC System

Oceanside CA— North County Transit District (NCTD) is one step closer to the full implementation of the federally-mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system for its COASTER trains. PTC is an integrated command, control, communications, and information system that alerts train engineers when certain unsafe conditions exist, and stops the train when conditions warrant. PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive train speed, train movements through misaligned track switches, and unauthorized train entry into work zones. This system increases the safety of all who use the rails.

NCTD completed the federal requirements for Revenue Service Demonstration (RSD)—which was the final stage for demonstrating the system performs as intended—and began Extended RSD of PTC in December 2017. The conditions were met for entering into Extended RSD which included 30 consecutive trips without a critical failure of the PTC system, and 75% of the COASTER engineers having operated a train in RSD. As of now, 100% of the COASTER engineers have been trained.

To complete Extended RSD and enter into Full Revenue Service Implementation of the PTC system, NCTD operated all trains under PTC, all engineers operated PTC in Extended RSD, and on September 21, 2018 the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) gave conditional approval to NCTD’s PTC Safety Plan and conditionally certified its PTC system—one of only ten railroads in the nation to receive this conditional approval. The Safety Plan demonstrates to the FRA that NCTD’s PTC system meets all of the federal requirements and works as stated. It contains information on how NCTD will ensure the safety of the system with a variety of components, including: a railroad training plan; procedures and test equipment; operations and maintenance manual; configuration and revision control measures; initial implementation procedures; and post implementation testing and monitoring procedures.

Conditional approval of the PTC Safety Plan now enables NCTD to enter into interoperability testing, which means that other carriers such as passenger, commuter, and freight trains who operate on NCTD-owned rail can test their PTC system for integration with NCTD’s PTC system. These tenant rail partners—Amtrak, BNSF, Metrolink, and Pacific Sun Railroad—must be able to seamlessly communicate and operate across all railroad systems.

“We at NCTD, along with Herzog staff, have worked diligently to integrate this system into our current equipment and we are looking forward to testing the system with our partner rail operators who utilize our track,” said Deputy Chief Operations Officer–Rail, Eric Roe.

“As a company, we are proud to have been a part of this success story,” said Herzog’s Vice President of Rail Systems, Jim Hanlon. Since 2012, Herzog has been working on the design, installation, and implementation of PTC for NCTD. To date, Herzog has performed the necessary activities to ensure NCTD meets the federal mandate.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) requires railroads to install PTC systems on tracks that carry passengers or toxic-by-inhalation materials. Based on a January 2012 final FRA rule, the Association of American Railroads estimates that PTC technology will be deployed on about 63,000 miles of U.S. freight rail lines. The RSIA mandates that PTC be put into service by December 31, 2018. NCTD is on track to complete full implementation of PTC by this deadline.