Metro-North, LIRR mark completion of PTC implementation

Dec. 28, 2020
The milestone was reached eight days ahead of a federally mandated deadline to have the safety overlay system functioning on all required lines and locomotives.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) have completed implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC). The rail safety system was required to be installed by Dec. 31, 2020 and Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi and LIRR President Phil Eng noted the completion of the task on Dec. 23 was “a remarkable feat given the scope of the project and challenges this year posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“There is no higher priority at the MTA than safety and full PTC implementation brings our railroad operations to the next level,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye. “I thank Cathy, Phil and the incredible employees at Metro-North and LIRR who made this happen by the federal deadline in the midst of a global pandemic. This technology will prevent future collisions and ultimately help save lives across our more than 500-mile commuter rail systems.”

Metro-North was required to have PTC operational on more than 244 route miles, train 2,915 employees on the technology and have it interoperable with four other railroads. LIRR was required to have PTC operational on 305 route miles, train nearly 2,300 employees and have its PTC system interoperable with two railroads.

"Ensuring safety for the public and our employees is at the core of everything we do daily. The fact that our team at LIRR delivered PTC, a crucial piece of safety for our customers and fellow employees, during a global pandemic is remarkable, and I couldn't be prouder of their dedication and commitment to public service," said Eng. "Fulfilling this mandate prior to the deadline is a testament to our workforce, our partners in labor and our collaborative success. The implementation of PTC adds to a roster of in-house initiatives we've employed over the past two years to make sure ours is as safe as possible for all."

Metro-North’s Rinaldi added, “Metro-North’s completion of PTC before the December 31, 2020, deadline was an all hands-on- deck effort that spanned multiple departments across the railroad. It represents a historic leap forward in the safety and reliability of the system, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team for achieving these milestones, despite supply chain and other challenges during the pandemic.”

PTC allows LIRR and Metro-North trains to automatically communicate in real time with central dispatching offices – sharing information on train position, speed and the actions of the locomotive engineer. If a train is traveling too fast, the system automatically takes control of the train to slow it down while alerting the engineer.

The system is designed to reduce the potential for human error to contribute to train-to-train collisions, trains traveling into zones where railroad employees are working on tracks, or derailments caused by a train traveling too fast into a curve or into a misaligned switch. It relies on a network of transponders spaced every one to two miles depending on interlocking density. Metro-North has 3,800 transponders and LIRR has 4,274.

All pieces of rolling stock, including revenue and work trains, have on-board computers. MTA staff and personnel from Systems Integrator Siemens and Bombardier have worked together around the clock for months to ensure the timely delivery of this system.

In several of the final steps toward reaching this milestone, the Long Island Rail Road on Dec. 5 achieved full interoperability with Amtrak, which runs in joint territory between Penn Station and Sunnyside, Queens. Metro-North completed New Haven Line boundary integration route testing which was commissioned on Dec. 4, and activated software on the New Haven Line’s M8 fleet on December 3. Both railroads, in November, achieved safety plan approvals from the FRA and successfully continue implementation despite facing challenges, such as delayed delivery of system software earlier in the year and and COVID-19 impacts since March.

The Long Island Rail Road’s 305 route miles that are fully operational with PTC include areas of switching complexes at Jamaica and at Harold Interlocking, which consists of a complex set of interlockings in Sunnyside, Queens, where LIRR meets Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks for the connection to Penn Station.

More than 151,500 Metro-North revenue trains ran in full PTC mode from August 2019 – November 2020. The 244.3 total route miles of in full PTC functionality in Metro-North's territory includes :

  • Hudson Line – 74.8 miles
  • Harlem Line – 76.9 miles
  • New Haven Line – 61 miles
  • Danbury Branch – 24.2 miles
  • New Canaan Branch – 6.3 miles

NJ Transit, which operates West of Hudson service under contract with Metro-North, is also operating in full PTC on the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis Lines.

Ronald L. Batory, Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration said: “As FRA Administrator, it has been a privilege to oversee both Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad as they fully implemented FRA-certified and interoperable PTC systems on their required networks. I commend the perseverance and commitment at all levels of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in successfully meeting this important deadline.”

PTC maintenance will continue, following completion on both railroads, to monitor reliability and safety as well as system software updates to make operational improvements and correct variances.