danbaum wrote:I am writing an article on Positive Train Control and am interested in hearing the views of knowledgable people. Is PTC a great thing that the railroads are dragging their feet on implementing? Is it the beginning of the process of getting conductors out of the cab so the railroads can save money? Is it a high-tech fix for problems that could be solved much more cheaply and easily? Interested in hearing people's views about all aspects of the new technology. You can reply here, but it would be great if you'd also email me at [email protected]. Thank you.
PTC is something that US railroads should have implement 20 - 30 years ago. Early pre-PTC systems like Automatic Train Stop (ATS) and various Cab Signal systems have existed in various forms since the 1920s. The problem with the early systems were that they were reactive rather than predictive. They would stop you when you ran a stop signal, but could not prevent you from going past the signal. Remember the Amtrak crash at Chase, MD in 1987 involving Ricky Gates? Both trains had Cab Signals, but the system only had reactive stopping ability, and couldn't prevent the collision.The Europeans started to introduce Train Control Systems with predictive capability in the 1960's, though early versions had limitations, that were eventually solved with the development of modern microprocessors. This Wikipedia article is very well written by someone who has actual knowledge of the German system LZB (Linienzugbeeinflussung).
The French also had a similar system called TVM (Transmission Voie-Machine) though I know less about how that system works.
Amtrak is using a system developed by Alstom Signalling called ACSES, developed from European technology, to meet its PTC requirements on the Northeast Corridor, this system was considered by the US Class I railroads (the Big 4 UP, BNSF, CSX, and NS) but rejected for cost reasons.
The system chosen by the seven US Class I railroads (BNSF, UP, CSX, NS, Soo Line, Grand Trunk, and KCS) and the Western Commuter railroads is Wabtec Electronics V-ETMS system. This system is the descendent of an earlier system called ARES (Advanced Railroad Electronics System) jointly developed by Rockwell/Collins and the Burlington Northern RR (predecessor of today's BNSF) in the 1980s. The system was tested on BN's Iron Ore lines in Northern Minnesota as the cold climate and relatively captive fleet of locomotives facilitated the testing. ARES worked well within the limitations of the equipment available at the time. The parent company Rockwell/Collins could see that ARES wasn't going to be a money-maker any time soon, and sold the Railroad Electronics Division to what is now called Wabtec (then Westinghouse Air Brake). BN (now BNSF) and Wabtec continued development through the 90's and up to today improving various pieces of equipment ( durability in the harsh railroad environment). Testing was moved south to between Beardstown, IL and E.St. Louis, MO in the mid-2000s. When the collision at Chatsworth, CA brought the harsh focus on safety systems, the Wabtec system was the most suitable system likely to be ready in the timeframe required.
There are many problems implementing PTC starting with enough people with the technical knowledge to build the necessary infrastructure, all this means that the railroads have had to throw extra money at their implementation programs to get things done faster. Even with all this it doesn't appear that PTC will be up and running every where that it is required to be by the end of 2015.
The person to interview is Steven Ditmeyer, last I knew he was a Professor at the National Defense University in Washington DC.