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Why We Need PTC, and How Some Railroads are Already Moving on It

By: Paula Bernier, TMC Executive Editor

I’ve always thought of trains as one of the safer modes of transportation. But recent high-profile train accidents remind us that even vehicles on tracks can run into problems that can result in crashes, with potential results including death, injury, and property loss.

You may remember the tragic Amtrak accident on May 12 in Philadelphia. It killed eight people and injured more than 200 others. The train derailed while taking a curve for which the maximum recommended speed was 50 miles per hour, but preliminary analysis from the National Transportation Safety Board indicates the train was moving at 102 miles per hour. This wreck put new focus on the need for positive train control, better known as PTC, systems.

Railways Can Meet Regulatory Needs and Boost Services with IP/MPLS

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

While signaling and train control technologies have long existed to automatically trigger emergency brakes, railways are struggling to put them into place.

In North America, the Positive Train Control (PTC) system was mandated by the United States federal government in 2008 for railway lines carrying passengers and hazardous materials. Yet, the government deadline to have 96,500 km of track with the feature by 2015 will not be met.

Similarly, the European Train Control System (ETCS) in Europe, part of the Europe Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), is currently only deployed on 5000 km of track. The EU is aiming for a rollout on Europe’s 68,000km core network by 2030, and there is a long way still to go.

“With the US government set to introduce a five-year extension of the PTC bill by the end of 2015, and the EU turning the screw on ETCS deployment, this is not going away,” noted a recent blog post, Unlocking the benefits of train control with IP/MPLS, by Thierry Sens, Marketing Director Transportation Segment, Alcatel-Lucent. Sens, explained that, “Railways should therefore embrace the respective mandates as an opportunity to improve their network architecture and technology, specifically by introducing IP/MPLS.”

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