Where VRE, MARC stand at positive train control deadline

WASHINGTON — Virginia Railway Express and MARC expect to continue running in the new year, following a Dec. 31 deadline to activate or make progress on the safety system known as positive train control.

Positive train control can prevent crashes by slowing or stopping trains that are speeding in curves or approaching another train on the tracks ahead.

MARC and freight railroad CSX, which owns the tracks, have activated the system on the Camden and Brunswick Lines, Maryland Transit Administration spokeswoman Sandy Arnette said in an email.

MARC is still working with Amtrak to activate the system on the Penn Line.

Amtrak applied for an exception to the statutory Dec. 31 deadline to allow for additional interoperability testing with commuter and freight trains that share its tracks, but it has aimed to launch the system by Jan. 1, an Amtrak positive train control status summary said.

“MARC Train has fulfilled all requirements mandated for PTC implementation as a tenant railroad — onboard hardware installation, staff training and testing,” Arnette said.

The Federal Railroad Administration had previously highlighted MARC as among the systems across the country at risk of missing the Dec. 31 deadline to either activate the system or qualify for an extension.

VRE had completed hardware installation and employee training months ago, but has been granted an extension before implementing the system due to delays in receiving updated software, VRE Board meeting minutes said.

VRE runs mainly on tracks owned by Norfolk Southern and CSX, so must fit into their systems. VRE expects to activate PTC soon.

The FRA has the authority to grant two years of extensions to rail systems that have shown progress toward implementing the safety system.

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