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Positive Train Control

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NS is on track with its PTC Implementation Plan to meet the 2018 and 2020 goals and was conditionally certified by the FRA in May 2017. PTC, or Positive Train Control, is technology designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed, unauthorized incursions by trains into sections of track where repairs are being made, and movements of a train through an improperly aligned track switch.

The U.S. Congress has required that railroads install PTC on tracks that carry passenger trains or toxic-by-inhalation materials. The installation of PTC capability involves work on thousands of locomotives; a large new wireless communications network; and thousands of trackside devices connected to signals, switches, and other wayside devices.

Railroads have devoted enormous human and financial resources to develop a fully functioning PTC system.

»Several of the Norfolk Southern employees who have led the company’s efforts to develop and deploy the positive train control safety technology discuss the work and complexities involved in this video.

Summary of Norfolk Southern’s progress through third-quarter 2018

At the close of the third quarter 2018, NS had completed all required hardware installations for implementation.  NS initiated PTC operations on an additional 376 miles of the network.  Employee training is 99% complete and will finish in Q4 for the entire implementation footprint.  

As allowed by law, NS notified the Secretary of Transportation that it is ready for a review of the criteria to allow for the extension to 2020. As our Implementation Plan indicates, the fully interoperable implementation of a safe and reliable PTC system will conclude in 2020. There is still much work to be done to provide for interoperability and improve the scalability and reliability of the PTC system.


The NS Engineering team has completed all required installations

  • 3,719 radio towers
  • 3,617 wayside interface units
  • 151 switch position monitors
  • 3,304 wayside radios
  • 416 base station radios


The NS Mechanical team has completed all required installations

  • 2,900 locomotives with onboard computers
  • 2,900 locomotives with PTC displays
  • 2,846 locomotives with PTC-capable event recorders
  • 2,900comotives with PTC-220 radios

We have 2,900 locomotives Fully-equipped and PTC Operable.

*54 units of NSR's PTC equipped locomotive fleet in service before 10/1/2009 are exempt from the requirement to install a PTC-capable event recorder per §236.1005(d)(2).



The NS Operations team is providing PTC training

NS has trained more than 18,620 employees and their supervisors, as required, on job-specific PTC material using hands-on, simulator, video, online, instructor-led and train-ride methods to deliver training.



Advanced Train Control, Information Technology and Operations teams have been testing our PTC system implementation for years.

  • NS continued to verify and validate the PTC system in its Atlanta PTC lab with experts in the system and quality assurance. To date, we’ve tested over 16,472 scenario iterations of PTC states and functions and more than 147 iterations of software releases. Field acceptance testing occurs as new releases are ready for implementation.

  • At the end of 3Q 2018, NS was operating PTC trains with NS transportation crews in revenue service across 4,587.9 miles of its PTC-required track.

NS also is working with 30 railroads to ensure our PTC operations will be interoperable.

Access GoRail's Advocacy Action Center

Visit the AAR to learn more about Positive Train Control.