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February 4, 2016 12:00 PM, EST
Norfolk Southern, CSX Say They Won't Make 2018 Deadline for Train-Control Safety System
Schumer by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News
CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. told the Federal Railroad Administration they won't make the 2018 deadline for full implementation of positive train control.

Congress last fall extended the original deadline for installing the safety equipment from Dec. 31, 2015, to the end of 2018. Railroads that don't make the 2018 deadline can apply for a two-year extension. CSX and Norfolk Southern said they expect to have their systems in place and operating by the end of 2020.

PTC systems slow or stop a train if an engineer runs a stop signal or the train approaches a curve at excessive speed. They also are designed to brake trains so that they won't collide.

"Positive train control is life-saving," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "It's been my view that we should have implemented it as soon as possible."

He added, "It's unacceptable that some railroads now say they need five years. Railroads should move as soon as possible to get this life-saving technology in place."

LARGER VIEW: FRA deadline chart

PTC systems likely would have prevented the derailment of a Metro-North commuter train in December 2013 that killed four, as well as last May's derailment of an Amtrak train on the Northeast corridor that killed eight in Philadelphia.

It also could have prevented the collision of two CSX freight trains in Fonda, N.Y., in June 2013. That accident occurred after one train ran a stop signal.

CSX said it is making progress on installing PTC.

"At this time, CSX has installed more than 2,400 wayside units; signals have been replaced on more than 4,700 miles of tracks; more than 500 radio base stations have been installed; more than 160 locomotives are fully equipped and 2,895 locomotives have been at least partially equipped; and nearly 12,000 employees have been trained," CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said. "In addition, CSX was the second U.S. freight railroad to begin revenue service demonstrations — the final development and testing phase of PTC — on some regional subdivisions of our network."

Doolittle added that CSX will have spent $2.2 billion when installation is complete in 2020.

A spokesman for Norfolk Southern declined to comment.

"Positive train control prevents rail accidents and saves lives," FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg said. "We are encouraged that many railroads have submitted plans to meet — some even to beat — 2018. But we remain concerned that several other freight and passenger railroads are aiming for 2020.

"The Federal Railroad Administration will continue to do everything it can to help railroads install and activate this life-saving technology as quickly and safely as possible," Feinberg added.

Metro-North and Amtrak expect to meet the 2018 deadline, according to filings with the FRA. Canadian Pacific Railway, also a major carrier in the Capital Region, also said it expects to meet that deadline.