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Positive Train Control

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Norfolk Southern operates a safe railroad.

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a safety system.

Norfolk Southern is committed to PTC implementation.





NS has been committed to PTC implementation since 2005. See an annual timeline of PTC activity.



NS has installed 11,207 pieces of required wayside hardware, including 3,719 wayside antennas and 7,488 wayside radios and wayside interface units required for implementation.

We acquired and made operable private spectrum to securely transport millions of PTC messages to and from the back office, locomotive and wayside components.




We have completed PTC training of 18,645 employees, including a mix of classroom and on the job training



We have equipped 2,900 locomotives with 5,800 pieces of required PTC hardware and corresponding communications equipment, displays and event recorders


We have placed PTC in Revenue Service over 6,181 miles of our territory.

PTC is the backbone of the future railroad, providing the pipeline and neural connections to unleash further automation technologies. Learn more about NS technology.



2005 - Held system design and implementation kickoff meeting for PTC, years before Congressional mandate

2008 - Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 becomes law

2008 - Work began with Wabtec Railway Electronics to define a common PTC locomotive application with a common set of PTC functions to achieve interoperability

2008 - Signed Interoperability Train Control Collaboration Agreement with industry partners

2009 - Equipped the first 150 locomotives for PTC

2010 - Filed first Implementation Plan and began progressive implementation

2011 - Began field validation of wayside construction through disciplined signal cut-in procedures

2012 - Completed multi-year precision fly-mapping and data conversion for over 77,000 critical features on 16,100 rail miles for the construction of a highly accurate PTC track database

2012 - In consultation with Federal Railroad Administration, began system safety case and risk assessment with safety consultants and Class I railroads

2013 - Began reviews of vendors’ testing processes and artifacts for releases of software products to assess variances from industry standards and best practices

2013 - At the direction of the Federal Communications Commission, Wayside tower construction ceased pending resolution of a process for Tribal notification and consultation to address the agency’s compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act

2014 - Wayside tower construction resumes and we began field qualification testing on the first PTC district in August

2014 - Engaged two nationally recognized firms to perform wide-ranging security assessments of the PTC system

2015 - Completed comprehensive review of NS operating rules to ensure coordination with PTC system operation

2015 - Received Type Approval from FRA for the I-ETMS system

2016 - Began revenue service demonstration field tests in January; submitted PTC Safety Plan to FRA in August

2017 - With other RRs, contracted with TTCI to perform an updated reliability study to assess system reliability, availability and maintainability

2017 - Received FRA conditional certification of the NS PTC System on May 19 and began revenue service operations

2018 - Received FRA approval for an alternative sequence and schedule, permitting full implementation of PTC in 2020

2018 - After successful testing on the Crescent route from Washington to New Orleans, North Carolina and Virginia routes, NS initiated interoperable operations with Amtrak. We also conducted interoperability field testing with CSX, BNSF and Virginia Railway Express



“PTC is the most significant and complex infrastructure investment America’s railroads have ever undertaken. Operating and maintaining a safe and reliable national rail network while instituting PTC is paramount.”  FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory

Full PTC implementation requires a fully interoperable system. This means any railroad operating over Norfolk Southern’s PTC-equipped districts must be capable of operating with a “fully operative and functioning” PTC onboard computer that works with the NS PTC system. While NS has tested and demonstrated interoperability with Amtrak, VRE and several Class I freight railroads, the system is not yet capable of supporting full interoperable operations with a foreign locomotive in the lead of a train. Resources across the industry are constrained by implementation of over 200 relationships of hosts and tenants, including several of our short line partners that must equip their locomotives and train their employees for safe PTC operation.

Full PTC implementation also requires a scalable and reliable system that fully meets the statutory requirements to “functionally and reliably prevent…” train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, unauthorized incursions into a work zone, and movement of a train through a mainline switch in the improper position. NS, along with its industry partners, continues to experience significant technical system issues and software defects that impact its rail operation and delay a fully interoperable, scalable and reliable PTC implementation.These troubles demand advanced system design assessments and changes, rail operational expertise and advanced analytical tools for diagnosis. Scaling up while improving reliability, operability and interoperability requires frequent vendor software enhancements, extensive integration testing, and tightly controlled deployment to the PTC field components.

These issues are the primary challenges that required NS to request a two-year extension of the PTC deadline, as allowed for by the PTC Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015.