Positive Train Control (PTC)

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a system designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speeds, unauthorized train movements in work zones, and the movement of trains through switches left in the wrong position. PTC networks enable real-time information sharing between trains, rail wayside devices, and “back office” applications, regarding train movement, speed restrictions, train position and speed, and the state of signal and switch devices.

Because safety matters!

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA08) requires implementation of positive train control (PTC) on railroads

Railroads which carry passengers or have high

volume freight traffic with toxic or poisonous by

inhalation hazardous materials. PTC is a communications and signaling system

that has been identified by the National Transportation

Safety Board (NTSB) as a technology

capable of preventing incidents caused by train operator or dispatcher error.

Fast Facts: Union Pacific PTC Facts

Union Pacific

  • Will invest about $2.9 billion to make PTC operational.
  • Equipped 5,515 locomotives and more than 17,000 route miles.
  • Installed more than 10,000 wayside antennas and 5,515 locomotive radios.
  • Accounts for about a third of the industry’s radios, locomotives and route miles required to implement PTC.

Union Pacific is proud of its employees involved in this unprecedented undertaking, as they work tirelessly to safely design and implement interoperable technology that is largely unproven.


Positive Train Control (PTC) is a complex, nationwide system of newly developed technologies that continuously relays critical information such as speed limits, train movement authorization, switch positions, work zone locations and other operational data. It must factor in locomotive and rail car mix; train length, weight and speed; terrain and signal aspects to determine safe stopping distances. This conservatism in the “braking curve” slows the rail network’s velocity and, thus, reduces capacity and ability to handle more freight. Additionally, any PTC hardware or software component failure also defaults to stopping the train, thus reducing rail network capacity.

Implementing PTC properly requires integrating thousands of components across the telecommunications spectrum, such as GPS, Wi-Fi, radios, cellular technology, antennae, base stations and first-of-its-kind software that decides when to slow or stop a train – across Union Pacific’s network.

PTC must be “interoperable” – passenger, commuter and freight trains must be able to seamlessly communicate and operate across all railroad systems. Any breakdown in interoperability presents unacceptable risks to the safety and efficiency of America’s rail network. Additionally, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) must review each railroad’s PTC safety plan and certify the PTC system after development and testing of components is completed. This certification is mandatory before PTC-controlled trains can go into service.

Safety is Big Business

What is P.T.C. ?

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