At the South Shore Line (SSL), safety is the highest priority. To further enhance safety efforts, the SSL is implementing (along with all other passenger railroads in the US) Positive Train Control (PTC) technology across their entire network. The national effort for PTC began in 2008 when the U.S. Congress passed the Railway Safety Improvement Act (Act).
PTC is an unprecedented, complex set of technologies that will automatically stop a train before certain human error incidents occur. PTC will prevent train-to-train collisions and derailments caused by excessive speed, unauthorized train movement onto sections of track, and movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position. This technology is capable of automatically stopping a train, should a train operator fail to take appropriate action for the conditions at hand. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation Board of Trustees, the governing body overseeing the SSL, strongly advocated for a time extension to the Act in 2015 to allow the SSL and many other railroads across the country to reach this major milestone. The Board also advocated for federal funding for this safety mandate and was very pleased when, with the help of our Indiana’s Congressional delegation, NICTD secured an $8 million PTC grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to help offset the cost of this project.
“To implement PTC, the South Shore Line assembled a top-notch team of employees, consultants and contractors,” said Michael Noland, SSL President. “This extraordinary effort required, and will continue to require, expertise in the electrical, mechanical and civil engineering disciplines, computer and information technology, communications, configuration management and rail operations,” he added. “Our highly dedicated team has been working long hours, days, nights and weekends in the field, office and mechanical shops to bring the PTC system online,” said Victor Babin, SSL Chief Engineering Officer.
As the SSL develops and installs each component, it must pass multiple rigorous testing requirements in lab testing, field testing, and FRA certification. Field testing requires the physical testing of equipment on the SSL rails to ensure PTC systems are completely interoperable and working together seamlessly. Field testing began in April 2018, and the SSL’s application for Revenue Service Demonstration (RSD) was approved by the FRA on November 2, 2018.
Entry into Revenue Service Demonstration will allow the SSL to start integrating PTC into daily passenger service. As NICTD rolls out this new system to the entire service schedule, it is anticipated that there could be occasional service impacts, which NICTD will work hard to minimize. SSL will work diligently to keep passengers updated and informed during this time. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our passengers,” said Noland. “While our passengers may experience minor inconveniences throughout the PTC Revenue Service Demonstration process, we are confident that they appreciate our safety-first focus,” Noland added. For more information, please visit mysouthshoreline.com.
The South Shore Line is a commuter rail line operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) between Millennium Station in downtown Chicago and the South Bend International Airport in South Bend, Indiana.