All trains on both of MTA’s railroads are operating in Positive Train Control (PTC), an advanced commuter rail safety technology being installed across the country. The completion of the federally mandated technology project came in ahead of the deadline – a remarkable feat given the scope of the project and challenges this year posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye noted that there is no higher priority at the MTA than safety, and full PTC implementation brings railroad operations to the next level He added that this technology will prevent future collisions and ultimately help save lives across our more than 500 mile commuter rail systems.
Through Positive Train Control (PTC), LIRR and Metro-North trains 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.
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.
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.
More information about how Positive Train Control works on the MTA network can be found in this video.