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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:00 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 700
Location: Warren, PA
On the other side, there's some reverse logic here.

We've been pretty much stunned by the cost of putting in a turnout off of a Class-1 in PTC territory. You're not just paying for the turnout now, you're paying for changing the software detecting the turnout position, and the changes to the system. This can just about double the price of an industrial customer switch. More than ever, Class 1's don't what that switch off the main line into a cornfield industrial park.

So the single-car industries looking for rail accessible locations get some major sticker shock. If you're looking at industrial locations, now non-PTC locations on shortlines and (gasp) preservation railroads start to look a whole lot better and economically viable. You always got better service and a human on the phone, but now you get a significant cost reduction for staying off of PTC-accessed sites.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:18 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8637
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Agents of the railroad industry have made the case that the costs of PTC implementation are approximately ten times the estimated economic benefit derived from it, even factoring in lives potentially saved (because, yes, you can put a price on a human life--it's done daily from engineering rooms to courtrooms).

Yes, the framework of PTC, or even predecessor systems like BNSF's ETMS, could in theory serve as the foundation for crew reduction or elimination, and the latest issue of Trains Magazine has a cover story on the prospect of crewless trains. But when I interviewed BNSF reps about ETMS a few years ago, they were adamant: "That's not our goal; that's not even our vision." Industry technicians will be quick to point out "PTC doesn't help against a trespasser on the track, a tree or landslide falling down on the track, a car at a crossing, or a washout."


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:27 pm 

Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2010 10:51 pm
Posts: 98
When comparing air traffic control to rail traffic control systems, consider that the FAA (taxpayers) are picking up much of the multi-million dollar tab for advanced, Next-Gen air traffic technology which will allow the airline industry add more flights and profit. The railroads have to cover most of the cost of PTC out of their own pocket. It seems to be yet another example of the majority of taxpayer subsidies going to all transport modes except freight rail.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:01 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 1032
Location: Back in NE Ohio
After having worked for several years as a Class I freight engineer, it is still beyond me as to how automatic, crew-less freight trains of the massive type we run in this country could reliably and safely operate. So much of what is necessary to safely take 10-15,000 (or more) feet of train of highly variable weight cars and blocks of cars with various levels of slack action, down ever-varying grades and curves requires, for lack of a better term, a seat-of-the-pants feel, that only comes with human experience. And while human experience also comes with problems like losing situational awareness and sleep deprivation/sleep apnea, those are the problems that things like sophisticated cab signal/automatic train stop systems can make up for.

The major gap in technology that helped cause the Washington State wreck was the fact that the cab signal system only detected an over speed violation of the Maximum Authorized Speed for the entire line, not for the local condition of approaching a 30 mph curve. I don't know if things have changed in the past nine years since I operated there, but the CSS/LSL system on the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac subdivision has the same issue. Maximum speed for any CSX freight engine there is 60 mph, but only intermodal trains are allowed that speed. (Maximum authorized passenger train speed is 70 mph, and every Class I freight unit I've ever been on in this country has a posted maximum speed limit of 70 mph.) However, a freight train limited to 50 mph, or a mineral train limited to 45 mph, could run up to 60 mph on that subdivision without triggering an over speed condition in the system, although it would certainly register real-time in the transmitted on-board data recording system, and immediately trigger an alert to supervision, as does a number of other out-of-compliance engineer actions (like "throttle-stripping"). However, real-time supervisory notification could not prevent what happened in Washington State, it would only have notified supervision to take post-trip disciplinary action against the crew. I think the answer is some level of protection not quite as sophisticated as the full-on PTC our railroads are struggling to implement, but much more practical and achievable.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 1:50 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:23 am
Posts: 441
Location: Strasburg, PA
Randy Gustafson wrote:
On the other side, there's some reverse logic here.

We've been pretty much stunned by the cost of putting in a turnout off of a Class-1 in PTC territory. You're not just paying for the turnout now, you're paying for changing the software detecting the turnout position, and the changes to the system. This can just about double the price of an industrial customer switch. More than ever, Class 1's don't what that switch off the main line into a cornfield industrial park.

So the single-car industries looking for rail accessible locations get some major sticker shock. If you're looking at industrial locations, now non-PTC locations on shortlines and (gasp) preservation railroads start to look a whole lot better and economically viable. You always got better service and a human on the phone, but now you get a significant cost reduction for staying off of PTC-accessed sites.

Randy, this is the strategy that many of our shortline colleagues are pursuing. The Class 1's appear to have all but given up on general merchandise carloads. There is a silver lining here for those who look for opportunity and are not gripped by the current malaise du jour.

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:08 pm 

Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 3:28 pm
Posts: 67
Location: Florida
PaulWWoodring wrote:
After having worked for several years as a Class I freight engineer, it is still beyond me as to how automatic, crew-less freight trains of the massive type we run in this country could reliably and safely operate.

The major gap in technology that helped cause the Washington State wreck was the fact that the cab signal system only detected an over speed violation of the Maximum Authorized Speed for the entire line, not for the local condition of approaching a 30 mph curve.


I have been asked why I perform certain actions when running trains and I sometimes say "Seat of the pants feel" or "Experience." I've started to really pay attention as to why I take certain actions, and it is amazing what you learn through experience. Also I have gotten the privilege of testing some automated heavy haul freight trains overseas and I do think that automation has the ability to run a loaded 300 car train with better train handling than a human ever could. The systems I tested know way more information than anybody would sitting in the seat, and can detect or anticipate issues that you'd never even feel from the seat. Now I don't consider these systems even close to perfect yet but in all honesty if a human can do it there is no reason a computer couldn't.

Now the overspeed due to a speed restriction, either track alone or train type, that's where PTC benefits are. The real time speed/location and upcoming restrictions ahead are known, as well as the braking profiles for upcoming speed restrictions for the type of train. Really it is just like cab signals on steroids. PTC is not a catch all and it could be implemented a lot more efficiently but it is far from the devil we in the railroad industry are calling it out as.

For full discloser, I have been somewhat against PTC for a while and absolutely against how it is portrayed by the media. I work among people who have played crucial roles in developing PTC and I decided to ask questions and try to learn how it works before completely bashing it. I still don't love the implementation, but there are a lot of undeniable benefits.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:21 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8637
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
Gord M wrote:
When comparing air traffic control to rail traffic control systems, consider that the FAA (taxpayers) are picking up much of the multi-million dollar tab for advanced, Next-Gen air traffic technology which will allow the airline industry add more flights and profit. The railroads have to cover most of the cost of PTC out of their own pocket. It seems to be yet another example of the majority of taxpayer subsidies going to all transport modes except freight rail.

With all due respect:

The expenses of air traffic control, like the costs of highway construction, are supposed to be passed on to the ultimate beneficiaries of such systems through "user fees"--direct fees assessed to the airlines and airports in the case of air traffic control, and highway fuel taxes and occasional tolls in the case of highways.

We can certainly argue until several herds of cattle come home about whether or how effectively these systems manage to recoup their costs, especially in an era where vehicles manage to get 50-100% better fuel economy than when these highways and their infrastructure finances were built. Similarly, competent and educated historians can argue whether the state underwriting of the earliest rail systems and the later Federal land-grant program represented a massive government subsidy to private industry, a strategic public-private partnership that paid dividends for both, or a commitment to an obligation the railroad industry spent nearly a century paying off through reduced rates to military and mail traffic.

But the fact remains that any argument that "everybody gets subsidized but the railroads" is distorted at best and fraudulent at worst. Bureaucrats and consultants make lifetime careers out of peeling this multi-layered onion of complexity that are the direct and indirect subsidies to transportation.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:38 pm 

Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2010 10:51 pm
Posts: 98
Historically, I agree the issues are complex although user fees have not covered highway construction and maintenance costs for some time.
My basic point, really a question, is this.
NextGen is an expensive, advanced air traffic control system being financed by the FAA/ taxpayer.
PTC is an expensive, advanced rail traffic control system being forced on railroads who are expected to pick up the tab.
Why is one publically be funded while the other is not? It certainly does not appear to be a level playing field in this case.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:08 pm 

Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:13 pm
Posts: 59
Quote:
After having worked for several years as a Class I freight engineer, it is still beyond me as to how automatic, crew-less freight trains of the massive type we run in this country could reliably and safely operate. So much of what is necessary to safely take 10-15,000 (or more) feet of train of highly variable weight cars and blocks of cars with various levels of slack action, down ever-varying grades and curves requires, for lack of a better term, a seat-of-the-pants feel, that only comes with human experience. And while human experience also comes with problems like losing situational awareness and sleep deprivation/sleep apnea, those are the problems that things like sophisticated cab signal/automatic train stop systems can make up for.


Just as self-driving cars will radically alter our driving experience, so too will self driving trains. 18,000 tons trains most likely won’t be an issue because I doubt that’s what railroads would operate. If crew costs are at zero, there’s little reason to operate massive trains. Better to operate short frequent trains as needed catering to the customers wants than massive trains that clog the terminals at either end. One of the advertised benefits of PTC is the ability to run more trains safely in the same size territory than fixed blocks allowed before. The future is only limted by your imagination.

I just don’t see train service as a long term job these days. I really doubt many of the people most recently hired will ever be doing that same job at age 60 and I say that knowing my Railroad Retirement depends on them.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:41 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:24 pm
Posts: 6
With all do respect, as someone whom has lived in Europe and spent over a decade in the U.S. railroad industry in Communications and signals, the European model of PTC does not apply to the U.S. industry or environment. Also it lacks in some countries such as Germany interlocks and controls that prevent corn field meets, see the head on collision in Bavaria


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:46 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:54 pm
Posts: 1811
mspetersen wrote:
Quote:
After having worked for several years as a Class I freight engineer, it is still beyond me as to how automatic, crew-less freight trains of the massive type we run in this country could reliably and safely operate. So much of what is necessary to safely take 10-15,000 (or more) feet of train of highly variable weight cars and blocks of cars with various levels of slack action, down ever-varying grades and curves requires, for lack of a better term, a seat-of-the-pants feel, that only comes with human experience. And while human experience also comes with problems like losing situational awareness and sleep deprivation/sleep apnea, those are the problems that things like sophisticated cab signal/automatic train stop systems can make up for.


Just as self-driving cars will radically alter our driving experience, so too will self driving trains. 18,000 tons trains most likely won’t be an issue because I doubt that’s what railroads would operate. If crew costs are at zero, there’s little reason to operate massive trains. Better to operate short frequent trains as needed catering to the customers wants than massive trains that clog the terminals at either end. One of the advertised benefits of PTC is the ability to run more trains safely in the same size territory than fixed blocks allowed before. The future is only limted by your imagination.

I just don’t see train service as a long term job these days. I really doubt many of the people most recently hired will ever be doing that same job at age 60 and I say that knowing my Railroad Retirement depends on them.


As Mr. Mitchell notes, there is no indication that the benefits will exceed the costs. The scope and ambition required to implement any workable version of this concept is mind-boggling and I say this as a former software tester, a team member on FAILED system development project and veteran of an ERP implemention- that because of platform choice (Oracle, which absolutely sucks in comparison to SAP) and indequate design and testing, absolutely underwhelms-and none of those experiences involved safety-sensitive, no opportunity for ex post correction as this does.

Unfortunately, Elaine Chao (also known as Mrs. Mitch McConnell, and accredited swamp dweller) with all the confidence that only a career bureaucrat and Harvard MBA can muster-believes all that is necesssary to make this happen is for her to issue fiats as SoT.

Apparently, somebody failed to tell her that PTC only dates from 1991, when it was something of an obiter dictum in some paper. It's absolutely bizarre, but not terribly surprising, that the government would issue diktats to spend billions of dollars to be spent in attempt to meet arbitrary deadlines to install a "solution" in search of a problem, and where there is no working proof of concept. In short they are not only developing the platform, but the concept.

I would love to get a list of the hardware and software development and consulting concerns that the are getting the big contracts, and see whose palms are getting greased in and around DC.

Of course one of these days the man from the People's Republic of North Korea might get a new button. One that identifies and cripples the GPS we all know and love-and PTC requires.

Meanwhile, ATS, a nearly century old technology that is proven and inexpensive, could have stopped both Amtrak 188 and Amtrak 501, but of course Amtrak is spending money on the big, elaborate and grandiose idea favored by the government.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:07 am 

Joined: Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:22 pm
Posts: 202
superheater wrote:
Of course one of these days the man from the People's Republic of North Korea might get a new button. One that identifies and cripples the GPS we all know and love-and PTC requires.

Meanwhile, ATS, a nearly century old technology that is proven and inexpensive, could have stopped both Amtrak 188 and Amtrak 501, but of course Amtrak is spending money on the big, elaborate and grandiose idea favored by the government.


As I recall, the PTC mandate actually forbids new ATC/ATS installations - but grandfathers existing ones!
As for the GPS issue: yes, the mandate is insanely insecure, mandating that the computer be able to stop any and all trains without possible human override. Think about that!

CD


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 10:02 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
Posts: 2213
Location: Northern Illinois
superheater wrote:

Meanwhile, ATS, a nearly century old technology that is proven and inexpensive, could have stopped both Amtrak 188 and Amtrak 501, but of course Amtrak is spending money on the big, elaborate and grandiose idea favored by the government.


Well said. Where's the LIKE button when you need it?

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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:09 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:26 pm
Posts: 66
Would a program like GE's Trip Optimizer or WABCO's Leader have warned the engineer of the upcoming speed restriction? And for a lot less money, too. Perfect can be the enemy of good.


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 Post subject: Re: The Cost and Effects of PTC
PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:15 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2006 12:57 am
Posts: 67
Location: DC Metro Area
Trip Optimizer knows all the speeds, including equipment restrictions. I say "knows", but many of the speeds are wrong...so I run manually through those areas (it has 25s as 10s, some crossovers as 30s which are really 45s, etc) It also has our 35 through town as a 45. Now tell me that isn't a set-up...


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