Of the few positives in the report and an interview with Szabo were the substantial back-end systems work underway by BNSF that has that rail operator “much, much further along” than the more than three-dozen other Class I freight and passenger rail carriers covered in the PTC requirements.
Southern California’s Metrolink, which operates the lines that were the site of the Chatsworth collision, has also answered pressure from its Congressional leaders with tiered implementation of its own PTC. However, that passenger rail operator has delayed its self-ascribed early readiness of a PTC system due to investment and complications in acquiring radio spectrum bandwidth.
Even as lawmakers return to work in Washington, D.C., there is no timetable for any review or alterations by Congressional committee leaders, especially with a presidential election looming.
Szabo said the FRA would next ready for briefings with elected officials and their representatives based on the report, which was delivered four-months ahead of its due date. That gives, among other aspects, more time to reach out to the pool of PTC vendors and other federal agencies that could add insight, particularly the FCC in terms of radio spectrum. In addition, he said they plan to continue work along the current rail law guidelines — regardless of noted issues — to reach for the very basis of the law.
“The undertaking of this is so important, we need to be careful we don’t in any way make an attempt where we’re rushing, which could have safety consequences or capacity problems,” he said.