USA: Bipartisan legislation which would extend the December 31 2015 deadline for the implementation of Positive Train Control was introduced by the leaders of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure on September 30.

This follows a Government Accountability Office study which confirmed that most railways would not be able to meet the deadline mandated by Congress. Without an extension, shipments of certain chemicals would need to be suspended, along with many commuter and Amtrak services.

The proposed Positive Train Control Enforcement & Implementation Act would extend the deadline for full implementation to December 31 2018, and provide the Secretary of the Department of Transportation with the authority to issue further extensions if a railway can demonstrate it has made a good faith attempt to meet the deadline but cannot do so owing to ‘technical, programmatic, or operational challenges, such as availability of public funding, spectrum, technology, and interoperability standards’.

‘Completion of the Positive Train Control mandate by the end of the year is not achievable, and extending the deadline is essential to preventing significant disruptions of both passenger and freight rail service across the country’, said Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, one of the sponsors of the legislation. ‘Railroads must implement this important but complicated safety technology in a responsible manner, and we need to give them the necessary time to do so.’

The American Public Transportation Association called for the Senate and House of Representatives to work together to reach consensus on the bill, which would 'avert a transportation and economic crisis and enable commuter rail service to continue for Americans who take 1·7 million trips a day.'

Association of American Railroads President & CEO Edward R Hamberger said freight operators were pleased with the introduction of the legislation. ‘The committee leadership clearly recognises the need for immediate action to forestall the looming economic crisis that would result from widespread freight and passenger rail service disruption’, he said. ‘We look forward to working with both the House and Senate bipartisan leadership to quickly get the PTC extension across the finish line and to the President's desk for signature.’