Congress has approved a three-year extension of the  December 31 2015 deadline for the installation of Positive Train Control.

USA: The potential shutdown of many rail services on January 1 has been avoided, after Congress approved a three-year extension of the federally-mandated December 31 deadline for the installation of Positive Train Control.

The installation of PTC by the deadline was not considered feasible by the industry, and without the extension operators would have been obliged to suspend the carriage of passenger and hazardous freight traffic on routes without PTC.

The bipartisan legislation extending the deadline to December 31 2018 was passed by the House of Representatives on October 27 and by the Senate the following day. The legislation also empowers the Transportation Secretary to approve further extensions of up to two years for individual railways on a case-by-case basis.

‘Members of the House and Senate are to be commended for taking the responsible action to extend the PTC deadline’, said Association of American Railroads President & CEO Edward R Hamberger. ‘This provides the certainty American industries and businesses need to serve the millions of Americans who rely on rail every day. The extension means freight and passenger railroads can continue moving forward with the ongoing development, installation, real-world testing and validation of this complex technology.’

AAR said freight railways had spent almost $6bn on PTC, and expect to spend up to $4bn more before it is fully operational across the country.

American Public Transportation Association President & CEO Michael Melaniphy welcomed the new ‘realistic timeline’. He said commuter operators were ‘100% committed to developing and installing’ PTC, and the extension would enable them to ‘achieve the goal of ensuring this PTC technology and its many components are developed, installed, and tested successfully and safely.’