21st Century Railroading at the Speed of War
The 21st Century Railroading at the Speed of War course was presented by Lonnie R. Ortez, Senior Business Manager Sales at Union Pacific Railroad, and Don Jones, Short Line Development Manager at Norfolk Southern Corporation, during Transportation Academy on October 8, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri. Held annually in conjunction with the NDTA-USTRANSCOM Fall Meeting, Transportation Academy offers a broad range of educational, interactive courses covering various topics of interest to logistics and transportation professionals from the military, government, and industry.
Positive Train Control (PTC) is advanced technology designed to stop a train before certain accidents caused by human factors occur, such as derailments caused by excessive speeds or misaligned track switches, explained Ortez. However, he cautioned it will not prevent all accidents.
In 2008 Congress passed the Rail Information Security Act (RISA) that required that all railroads must have fully implemented by PTC by 2015. The difficult nature of the task prevented railroads from meeting this deadline. Primarily delays occurred because when RISA was passed, the technology did not exist and the extensive work required to implement the technology across such vast networks.
For these reasons, Congress provided extensions. To meet the extension dates, railroads had to meet specific conditions. These criteria included having all spectrum acquired, all hardware installed, sufficient employees trained, and adequate testing on the general rail system.
By the final implementation deadline at the end of 2020, the railroad industry will have invested over $10 billion on PTC. Jones added that this cost was the upfront cost. Maintaining the systems and equipment would mean that the real cost was much higher. He also remarked what a truly monumental task PTC implementation had been for all involved.
Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) is another hot topic in the rail industry. PSR is an operation model that shifts rail operations from hub and spoke to point-to-point. It minimizes dwell, reduces the amount of handling required for each rail car, and better utilizes crews and rail assets.
Jones described PSR as a better way to rail road, a better way to work as one dispatch center, and reduce silo. It moves cars, takes cars offline, and opens capacity. The Department of Defense (DOD) can expect PSR to reduce their transit times. In addition, PSR may free up excess capacity which may allow railroads to store cars for DOD.
Data analytics are being used to help monitor the equipment and expansive networks of the railroads. This is also being used as a means of monitoring the equipment and systems associated with PTC. The monitoring has allowed for more predictive maintenance.