POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL (PTC): CALCULATING BENEFITS AND COSTS OF A NEW RAILROAD CONTROL TECHNOLOGY

The railroad industry has since the mid-1980s been investigating the potential of a group of technologies collectively known as communications-based train control. These communications-based systems have been applied to both passenger and freight operations, and also to rapid transit and “people-movers” (low-capacity automated systems typically used at airports or for downtown circulation). In the railroad industry, the term “positive train control” (PTC) is now used, reflecting the capability of such system to positively enforce movement authorities, conveying a safety benefit not found in most current railroad systems. However, the sorts of “human factors” accidents prevented by PTC are (fortunately) uncommon, and their elimination produces a relatively small annual savings. The cost of implementing PTC, by contrast, may be quite large. The purpose of this analysis was to quantify the “business benefits” of Positive Train Control (PTC) for the Class I freight railroad industry. Positive Train Control is a concept, rather than a single technology or system. It can include many different capabilities, covering a range of railroad functions. The three components of PTC are the on-board computer (OBC) with Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) location capability, a dedicated wireless digital data link between locomotives and a control center, and the central office hardware and software at the control center. Through use of a digital data link and real-time train location information, PTC can be a train control system. The digital data link and the OBC can be used for positive safety enforcement, stopping trains if movement authorities are exceeded. The same data link may also be used to transmit work instructions to train crews, receive acknowledgment of completed work, or transmit locomotive diagnostic information in real time. This report does not address the safety benefits of PTC. These were previously quantified by the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), which identified nearly a thousand “PPAs” (PTC-preventable accidents) on U.S. railroads over a 12-year period, and determined the savings to be realized from each avoided accident. The RSAC finding was that avoidance of these PPAs was not, by itself, sufficient (from a strictly economic point of view) to justify an investment in PTC. The Congress of the United States then directed FRA to conduct a separate evaluation of the business benefits of PTC. These are the savings railroads (and shippers) might expect to see if PTC is deployed on the U.S. railroad network. Examples of potential business benefits include: 􀂉 line capacity enhancement 􀂉 improved service reliability 􀂉 faster over-the-road running times 􀂉 more efficient use of cars and locomotives (made possible by real-time location information) 􀂉 reduction in locomotive failures (due to availability of real-time diagnostics) 􀂉 larger “windows” for track maintenance (made possible by real-time location information) 􀂉 fuel savings This paper presents the results of the analysis. It is important to recognize, however, that the state of the art in making these estimates is not sufficiently mature to make exact answers feasible. What is presented here are the best estimates now possible, with observations as to how better information may be developed. Benefits were estimated in the above areas and the cost of deploying PTC on the Class I network (99,000 route miles and 20,000 locomotives) were calculated. The conclusions of the analysis were as follows: 􀂉 Deployment of PTC on the Class I railroad network (99,000 route miles, 20,000 locomotives) would cost between $2.3 billion and $4.4 billion over five years 􀂉 Annual benefits, once the system was fully implemented, were estimated at $2.2 billion to $3.8 billion 􀂉 Internal rate of return was estimated (depending on timing and cost) to be between 44% and 160%


Issue Date:
2005-03
Publication Type:
Conference Paper/ Presentation
Record Identifier:
http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/208199
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/208199
Total Pages:
19




 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-23

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