Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Wed October 07 2015

Amtrak CEO Warns of Potential Service Shutdown Ahead of Safety Deadline

Impacting Travel | Patrick Clarke | October 07, 2015

Amtrak CEO Warns of Potential Service Shutdown Ahead of Safety Deadline

In a letter to Congress Monday, Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman warned that lawmakers' failure to extend the Dec. 31 deadline for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) would result in the suspension of service along parts of the rail operator's network by mid-December, Reuters reported.

PTC technology regulates train speeds electronically and works to automatically slow them down as they enter sharp curves or congested areas. 

The letter, which was addressed to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, revealed that a "vast majority" of Amtrak's network woud be inoperable unless granted an extension. 

"Should Congress fail to pass legislation to extend the PTC deadline beyond December 31, 2015, there will be significant impacts to our service and on our customers and tenant railroads," wrote Boardman.

Although service on tracks currently controlled by Amtrak, including much of the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston would be unaffected by the deadline, Boardman warned in the letter that "potential impacts would be substantial."

For example, at least 50-plus miles of track between New Rochelle, New York, and New Haven, Connecticut, would be impacted.

But contrary to the letter's argument, Amtrak recently said it remained "on schedule to complete the full activation of PTC in the Northeast accordance with the federal deadline of December 31, 2015" during a May 16 blog post on its official website. 

It remains to be seen whether an extension will be granted in time to prevent a service shutdown. However, Reuters reported lawmakers in the House of Representatives have already proposed legislation to extend the PTC deadline for at least three more years.

If nothing is accomplished in the coming months, though, Boardman said Amtrak would begin alerting passengers to future disruptions as early as Dec. 1.


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