Chao’s letter explained that the coming year is filled with rail safety-oriented initiatives, with PTC implementation among the most important. She noted that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) would continue to work with the railroads as the congressionally-mandated deadline approaches.

According to USDOT, eight of the 37 railways required to implement PTC systems on their own tracks have obtained conditional PTC System Certification from FRA; 12 railways have completed installation of all hardware necessary and another 12 report having installed less than 50% of the required hardware as of September 30 2017. USDOT says 26 railways have begun field testing PTC systems, with those systems in operation on 45% of the required freight route-miles and 24% of the required passenger route-miles as of September 30 2017.

USDOT also said FRA “took significant action to ensure that railroads implement PTC systems in a timely and safe manner, including assessing civil penalties against certain railroads that failed to complete hardware installation milestones they scheduled to complete during calendar year 2016 in their PTC Implementation Plans.”

“Safety is our top priority at the US Department of Transportation,” Chao says. “The FRA leadership has been directed to work with your organisation’s leadership to help create an increased level of urgency to underscore the imperative of meeting existing expectations for rolling out this critical rail safety technology.”