Union Pacific fully implements positive train control

A man looks at a computerized screen.

Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) has fully implemented positive train control (PTC) across its system, and now the railroad is working on getting the safety technology to work with partnering railroads.

Union Pacific (UP) hosts 25 freight and passenger railroads, and UP must have PTC interoperability with each of these railroads by a federally mandated deadline of Dec. 31, 2020. 

Interoperability occurs when a freight railroad is able to know where another company’s trains are positioned within the host railroad’s network. A train is able to send its location data to the host railroad, and the host railroad has the ability to receive that data.

So far UP has PTC interoperability with 16 railroads, constituting 85% of its interoperable PTC train miles. UP said it hopes to reach interoperability with remaining partner railroads by mid-2020, the company said on Dec. 16.

“While Union Pacific began its first PTC operations nearly four years ago, we have now completed our initial implementation and continue supporting other railroads in our mutual efforts to achieve interoperability and safely operate on our rail lines,” said Greg Richardson, UP’s general director for operating systems and practices. 

UP defined PTC, a safety technology, as being able to prevent four types of incidents: train-to-train collisions; derailments caused by excessive speed; accidents that occur if a train is routed down incorrect track; and unauthorized train movements occurring on track undergoing maintenance. PTC doesn’t prevent incidents involving pedestrians or vehicles.

The technology monitors trains by analyzing several factors, including weight, location, speed and a five-mile look down the track, UP said. Locomotive engineers can respond to the information that the technology provides by taking actions such as slowing down. PTC can also automatically stop a train if a locomotive engineer doesn’t respond accordingly.