PTC tests at risk
WORK to upgrade track and signalling over much of the Union Pacific route between Chicago and St Louis is due for completion by October. The section between Dwight and Springfield, Illinois, has been fitted with Positive Train Control and improved protection at level crossings (RG 6.00 p359), allowing line speed to be increased to 177 km/h.
Unfortunately the trains intended to reach this speed will not be available for some time. As part of the Midwest High Speed Rail Initiative, four passenger trainsets were to have been acquired by January this year. Bids from Siemens and Talgo came in higher than expected, and the deadline was extended while negotiations continued over prices. In the worst case, the bids would be recalled with a different specification or fewer trains, according to George Weber, head of Illinois DoT's passenger rail division. The cost is to be shared equally between the state and Amtrak.
While freight services over the route will presumably be able to test the PTC equipment, operation in the higher speed range will remain unexplored for the moment. One option would be to use conventional passenger trains hauled by locomotives such as Amtrak's recently-acquired P42 units, which are capable of running at the higher speed.