LIRR, Metro-North on track to meet end of year PTC deadline

May 21, 2020
PTC-governed track is being operated on 73 percent of LIRR’s system and 82 percent of Metro-North’s system.

With 32 weeks left before the final deadline to implement positive train control (PTC), both of Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) commuter lines are on schedule to have the safety overlay system active on their systems.  

Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) provided an update to the MTA Board on May 20. PTC is operating on 202 miles of Metro-North’s system, which is 82 percent of the total required. The complete Harlem and Hudson Lines are operating under PTC, as is the New Haven Line from Grand Central Terminal to Greenwich, Conn., and the New Haven Line’s Danbury and New Canaan Branches. LIRR has PTC operating on 223 miles, or 73 percent, of its system, including the Babylon, Central, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach, Montauk, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Port Washington and West Hemstead Branches and the section of the Ronkonkoma Branch from Ronkonkoma to Greenport.

“Despite supply chain and other impacts from the pandemic, we remain on schedule to have full PTC functionality across the railroad by the end of this year,” said Catherine Rinaldi, president of MTA Metro-North Railroad. “Field work and testing continues. With the Harlem Line, Hudson Line and inner New Haven Line now operating in PTC, the focus [is] now on the remaining section between Stamford to New Haven.”

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains causing staff working on PTC to find efficiency through reordered sequences of tasks. Additionally, adjustments were needed to ensure adequate social distancing was observed by staff who were performing testing of train cars. Despite this, the railroads report testing continues seven days a week.

“I’m proud to say that we have found ways to continue delivering on this vital project despite the pandemic,” said Phil Eng, president of LIRR. “We continue to make adjustments during the pandemic but remain on schedule to meet our commitment to have all segments of the railroad operating in PTC by the December deadline.”

Interoperability – where one railroad’s PTC system can communicate with another railroads PTC system – is a technological challenge of PTC. Metro-North’s PTC system is required to be interoperable with two other railroads while LIRR’s system must be interoperable with seven. The railroads say all the segments that have been activated with PTC have enabled full interoperability with all other railroads who share the tracks, including Amtrak and freight railroads.

Last week, the Federal Railroad Administration released a quarterly report documenting the rail industry’s progress toward PTC implementation. While four commuter railroads were labeled “at-risk” of not meeting the deadline, overall, the rail industry is on track to complete implementation of PTC by the end of the year.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.