WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

Metra Celebrates Start Of Installation Of Collision Prevention System

September 17, 2018 - 1:57 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Metra is celebrating the installation of a collision prevention system, but actual start-up on all lines won’t be complete for two years.

At Metra's railyard on 49th Street, Metra officials were joined by Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Ron Batory along with dozens of Metra workers, who helped install Positive Train Control, PTC, technology in hundreds of Metra rail cars and locomotives. 

PTC is designed to prevent train collisions and derailments caused by speeding trains.  

Metra CEO/executive director Jim Derwinski said Metra has now installed PTC on all its 700 plus vehicles. 

Over the next two years, the system will be phased in on commuter lines. 

Hundreds of Burlington Northern commuters were inconvenienced when the BNSF began using PTC this year.  Metra said schedule adjustments were needed because of PTC prep work for each train run created chaos among commuters.

Derwinski said some of those same challenges will be there on some lines, but not on others. 

WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

"The Metra Electric District for us, is as similar to the Burlington Northern as you can get. That deployment will be next year and that will be a challenge for us. We are clearly looking at the schedules to make sure we minimize the impact to passengers," he said.

"Some of the lines like the Heritage Corridor, they only run a trip in and a trip out, there’s no flip involved so there’s no concerns there. But, when you get to the volume of trains that the Burlington runs we really have no other line except for our Electrict District that, in such a tight window, runs that volume of trains."

Metra needed to have PTC installed in all its vehicles in order to qualify for a delay until 2020 in having PTC fully operating.

With Positive Train Control, Derwinski said all 700 commuter trains and 700 freight trains that traverse the Chicago area every day will have to be able to communicate with each other. Interoperability, it's called.  That's another of the challenges he said Metra has in getting PTC running.

Currently, there's a PTC test car that's been used on the Rock Island line in preparation for that line using PTC.  A test of PTC with trains that have commuters on them is scheduled to begin next month.

Positive Train Control is expected to cost Metra $400 million and add as much as $20 million a year to Metra operating costs.