BNSF warns Congress on safety system deadline; no PTC deadline extension, no passenger trains on BNSF tracks

September 9, 2015

BNSF Railway Co. is ratcheting up pressure on Congress to postpone the deadline for installing a remotely controlled train safety system by the end of the year

The railroad, which employs about 5,000 Nebraskans and 1,800 people in Lincoln, said it would probably have to halt freight and passenger traffic if the requirement isn’t delayed.

Congress mandated in 2008 that U.S. railroads install positive train control, a vast wireless system that could automatically stop a train to avoid a collision, by the end of 2015. But the major railroads have said they’re still years away from fully implementing it.

Safety regulations trump BNSF’s obligation as a common carrier to haul freight for customers, BNSF said in a letter sent to U.S. Senators Wednesday.

“BNSF is concerned that it is not reasonable to operate in violation of a legal safety requirement in order to fulfill its common carrier obligation,” BNSF Chief Executive Officer Carl Ice wrote. “BNSF, as a matter of law, corporate policy and principle, does not willfully violate safety statutes or regulations or ask our employees to do so.”

BNSF expects to have “a significant portion” of the required PTC implementation by the deadline, the letter said, but more installation and testing will still be necessary.

BNSF said it could face legal claims for accidents on lines that didn’t comply with the PTC mandate. The railroad will notify customers if an extension isn’t enacted by the end of October to give customers time to develop optional plans, BNSF said.

Read the full Bloomberg News story, along with a link to the BNSF letter to customers and political leaders in the Lincoln Journal Star by clicking here.


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