Positive Train Control in California

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (P.L.110-432) requires all railroads to install positive train control devices in specified areas by December 31, 2015. Positive train control (PTC) is a Global Positioning System-based technology to provide real-time location and speeds of trains and avoid collisions, such as in the event of an operating rule violation, such as missing a signal. ROSB staff has been actively engaged in design review, observations, and inspections during the development and construction of PTC systems in California.

Positive train control systems are designed to provide the following safety enhancements:

  • Train separation or collision avoidance.
  • Line speed enforcement.
  • Temporary speed restrictions.
  • Rail worker wayside safety.


 While the railroads in California required to install PTC have achieved some levels of success in the installation of these systems, it is doubtful that any will be 100-percent ready by the December 31, 2015 deadline. As of this writing, BNSF, North County Transit District and Metrolink may be able to meet the December 31, 2015 deadline, whereas other railroads do not appear to be in a position to do so.

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