BNSF, CSX, UP, and NS threaten to shut down Amtrak and chemical shipments if Federal govt enforces the law

Railroads use manual 1800’s technology – a hand on the throttle – to control the speed of their trains – technology that is horribly ineffective on today’s crowded train lines and two mile long trains. A moment of inattention, a bad decision, or misaligned switch

For over 45 years, the Federal Railroad Administration has been urging the railroads to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) to automatically stop trains moving at dangerous speeds. The effectiveness of PTC is undeniable.  According to the FRA, had PTC been in place since they first recommended it in 1969, it could have prevented the death of 245 people, and injuries to 4,260 more.

In 2008, after a commuter rail mishap killed 25 people, Federal legislation was passed requiring that PTC by installed by 2015. The law includes significant financial penalties if the railroads fail to meet that deadline. Federal Railroad Administration regulations later limited the PTC requirement to railroad line segments carrying passengers or chemicals that are toxic by inhalation.

Despite billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and loans to the railroad industry, many railroads have failed to meet their responsibilities.
Citing cost and complexity issues, most major railroads told the GAO in 2013 that they could not  meet the 2015 deadline.  BNSF was the sole exception, stating that it expected to meet the deadline.  More recently, BNSF joined the pack, and said they also would fail to meet the deadline.
The railroads have exerted their considerable influence to try to get Congress or the FRA to give them more time, but thus far have not succeeded. 
Now, just months before the deadline, the four major railroads – BNSF, UP, CSX, and Norfolk Southern have raised the stakes and threatened to shut down Amtrak and transportation of toxic-by-inhalation chemicals if Congress doesn’t change the law and FRA insists on enforcing it.
How will this chicken end?  Stay tuned
For more information, see:
For background, check out:

How ‘Positive Train Control’ Works & How It Could Make Rail Travel Safer, Forbes

Positive Train Control – Additional Authorities Could Benefit Implementation, United States Government Accountability Office

Detailed Report Shows Most Railroads Will Miss Positive Train Control Deadline, Federal Railroad Administration