INTRO: Born out of the ATCS project of the 1980s, the North American Joint Positive Train Control Programme will see cost-effective train control developed over the next five years. Trials are to be undertaken between Springfield and Mazonia in Illinois, where freight will share Union Pacific tracks with 177 km/h passenger trains
BYLINE: Robert E Gallamore
Assistant Vice-President, Communications TechnologyTransportation Technology Center, Inc
ON FEBRUARY 7 the North American Joint Positive Train Control Programme issued a request for proposals for a system development/integration contract. With this important step, the Programme moved closer to its goal of developing cost-effective positive train control for mixed passenger and freight operations. By enforcing movement authorities and speed restrictions for PTC-equipped trains, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) system will accomplish the core PTC functions of preventing train collisions and overspeed derailments, and protecting track workers. NAJPTC is also sponsoring development of standards for PTC components to promote industry interoperability. The Programme’s pilot system will demonstrate compliance with these emerging standards.
NAJPTC is a five-year, $60m effort sponsored and funded by the Association of American Railroads, the Federal Railroad Administration, and IDOT. The Programme participants have agreed that the AAR’s subsidiary, Transportation Technology Center, Inc, will serve as prime contractor. TTCI has responsibility for overall Programme design, management, and administration. A management committee made up of railroad representatives and financial sponsors (AAR, FRA, and IDOT) reviews technical and contractual decisions. Final responsibility for Programme funding rests with a stakeholders’ committee formed of senior representatives of the financial sponsors.
The NAJPTC’s vanguard system, frequently called the IDOT PTC Project, will be installed on a 193 km segment of a mixed traffic Union Pacific Railroad route between Mazonia and Springfield, Illinois. This segment is part of a high-speed passenger corridor designated by IDOT and the FRA, running between Chicago and St. Louis. The pilot section is equipped with CTC and has about one grade or level crossing per mile of route.
On half the pilot territory, the system will be integrated with the existing traffic control and signalling to provide enforcement of train movement authorities, while in the other half it will be deployed as a stand-alone system performing the same PTC functions. Extensive monitoring and testing of performance and reliability will be conducted during each phase of the development.
With PTC, upgrading of the infrastructure and new trains, IDOT proposes to reduce passenger train timings between Chicago and St. Louis from the current 51/2 hours to 31/2 hours. In this context, IDOT requires the train control system developed under the NAJPTC to be ready for revenue service and not simply a demonstration installation. As proposed passenger train speeds will reach 177 km/h or more, IDOT requires the PTC on-board computer display equipment to meet the FRA requirement for cab signalling at this speed. Grade crossings will have to be closed or physical barriers placed in many locations. Protected crossings must be given a long lead-in time for faster trains to provide a constant warning time for road traffic.
The NAJPTC standards and the pilot scheme will meet safety objectives derived from a series of FRA-sponsored discussions between labour, management, vendor, and government. This Railway Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) will function in lieu of formal safety regulatory rule-making and is intended to develop new PTC safety performance standards promulgated by FRA. The PTC objectives established by RSAC are: