Positive Train Control

What is PTC?

PTC is a type of train control required by law under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) on most passenger and certain freight routes (with few exceptions).

The intention of PTC is to be interoperable between railroads in an effort to prevent:

  • Train to train collisions;
  • Derailments due to excess speed;
  • Encroachment into established work zones; and/or
  • Train movements when switches are incorrectly positioned,

and to be interoperable between railroads so that one railroad’s train can operate on another railroad’s PTC-equipped track.

PTC provides an additional layer, above the industry’s well-defined safety operations and procedures, comprised of automated systems designed to engage warnings and braking in the event of human error.

There are approximately 40 railroads in various stages of PTC implementation throughout the US.

How it works…

A combination of sophisticated on-board (locomotive), on-ground infrastructure, communication and back office technology, PTC coordinates all the components to intervene, if necessary, to automatically stop a train before accidents, in situations outlined above, can occur. It should be noted that PTC cannot prevent accidents due to trespassers on foot or in vehicles on the tracks.



KCS is committed to the implementation of PTC:

“Our first core value at KCS is our commitment to ensuring safe operations of the railroad. It is paramount to our growth and success. The implementation of Positive Train Control is consistent with this core value and our organization is committed to its success from our initial deployment to becoming fully interoperable with other railroads.We are actively engaged with industry development activities and transforming our operations.”

Patrick J. Ottensmeyer, KCS President & Chief Executive Officer

In total, The Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR) will:

  • Invest an estimated $300 Million to make PTC operational;
  • Equip 76% of its US locomotive fleet and 78% of its US owned track;
  • Train over 2,100 employees for PTC; and
  • Install over 3,000 pieces of wayside equipment to make PTC operational.

KCSR’s current PTC status:

KCSR completed PTC equipping our railroad (locomotives and infrastructure) in 2018. KCSR received approval from the Federal Railroad Administration on their Alternative Schedule and Sequence Request to complete interoperability by December 31, 2020.

Communication: 100% of wayside interface units, communication towers, switch position monitors and base stations are installed.
Back office: 100% of employees are trained on PTC as required under the applicable PTC regulations.
On-board: 100% of our locomotives are fully-equipped and operable.
On-ground infrastructure: 100% of our track segment implementation is complete.
100% of our required route miles are fully-operational and PTC compliant. The rest are in progress.

You can see the progress in our map below:


For additional information about PTC:

FRA Positive Train Control Information: https://www.fra.dot.gov/ptc

American Association of Railroads: https://www.aar.org/article/freight-rail-positive-train-control/

Note: progress is as of 10.24.18