Running the last mile of the PTC implementation

Running the last mile of the PTC implementation

The U.S. operations of the Class I railroads are closer to reaching full compliance with the federal mandate to implement positive train control (PTC) by the end of December 2020, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The data shows that Class I railroads are in 100% compliance in most of the areas as of June 30, 2020, except for two areas, that is the PTC system certification and interoperability. Lilee Systems has the experience, technical expertise, and resources to bring rail companies to full compliance and is currently helping ‘at-risk’ commuter railroads meet the deadline. Interoperability with other trains – compliance and challenges What is interoperability? Interoperability occurs when PTC system on the locomotives of a “host” railroad and “tenant” railroad operating on the same PTC-equipped line can successfully communicate, even when trains are moving over property boundaries.  The last step of work is to achieve interoperability with other railroads’ individual PTC systems, which is viewed as the last piece in fulfilling the statutory mandate. Looking back, allowing multiple PTC systems created several obstacles to viable interoperability. Reports indicate that 1/3 of railroad lines subject to the PTC mandate have enabled PTC, are on the interoperable systems, or are in the initial stages of interoperability testing.  Railroads aside, many PTC suppliers are struggling to keep up with the demand for PTC systems and are facing very compressed schedules to meet the 2020 deadline.  Taking into consideration the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other unforeseen circumstances, some railroads have been able to use staff and track availability resulting from reduced operations and ridership to make progress on PTC implementation and...
Positioning Accuracy and Object Detection: Essential to Keep Maintenance-of-Way Vehicles Safe

Positioning Accuracy and Object Detection: Essential to Keep Maintenance-of-Way Vehicles Safe

Safety for maintenance-of-way vehicles and workers Rail safety is the core of what we do at LILEE Systems and as we discussed in Safety Vulnerability Remains after PTC, the job is not done with the PTC implementation at the end of 2020. Our culture of safety continues and expands to maintenance-of-way (MOW) vehicles to prevent incidents, further ensuring rail safety while driving productivity and efficiency and supporting the trend towards Precision Scheduled Railroading. Positioning accuracy matters Positioning accuracy is an essential ingredient of LILEE’s MOW Collision Avoidance Solution. When a track authority for a work zone is given to a maintenance vehicle, the sub-division name, track ID, and milepost range are assigned to the authorized vehicle. This allows the authorized vehicle to enter only the authorized track sections. However, in most cases, there are multiple parallel tracks at the location where a vehicle will be entering its authorized section of track. The accuracy in the location report in this scenario becomes very important as an error in the position report can result in collisions if the maintenance vehicle is allowed to enter incorrect track sections without a warning. Or, in the opposite case, the system can generate unwanted warnings when the maintenance vehicle is operating on its authorized section of track. LILEE’s MOW Collision Avoidance Solution includes a high precision positioning hardware which takes advantage of the location data from the multi-band (L1, L2, L5) GNSS with RTK (Real Time Kinematic), the IMU, and the vehicle CAN bus inputs (direction, throttle, speed, etc.). The built-in sensor fusion software then provides a combined positioning accuracy of 0.01 m + 1...
Safety Vulnerability Remains after PTC

Safety Vulnerability Remains after PTC

Roadway workers are not protected In 2008, the United States Congress mandated positive train control (PTC) for all passenger and freight trains, with some exceptions. Forty-two railroads are subject to the statutory mandate to implement PTC. Twelve years after PTC was mandated, serious accidents may still occur if a maintenance-of-way (MOW) vehicle unknowingly goes out of its authorized work zones. Maintenance vehicles today are not controlled nor monitored by the PTC system. An incoming train cannot be stopped even when the train is equipped with a PTC system. With the extended PTC implementation deadline of December 31, 2020 approaching, now is the perfect time to look into rail safety for maintenance-of-way vehicles and workers as a part of the PTC mandate. PTC-like protection to maintenance-of-way vehicles Positive Train Control is designed to address four problems Train-to-train collisions Derailments caused by excessive train speed Train movements through misaligned track switches Unauthorized train entry into work zones Per the AAR (Association of American Railroads) mandate, PTC shall prevent “unauthorized incursions by trains into sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place.” This mandate however does not protect maintenance vehicles that operate on the railway from running into unauthorized sections of track because majority of the maintenance vehicles do not have any warning or protection systems. Even in some limited cases when the maintenance vehicles are equipped with collision avoidance technologies, they are not integrated with the PTC systems. This imposes enormous safety risks, liabilities, and costs for the rail operators, as this type of accident typically not only incurs property damages easily exceeding $2.5M. The cost of death, injuries, and service...