.jpgThe American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act permits railways to implement a comparable alternative to PTC that is proven to reduce the risk of spills of hazardous materials. Under the bill, railways could revise their PTC rollout plans to include lines that would adopt their alternative risk reduction strategy. They would also be required to submit their implementation plan changes by Dec. 31, 2015, a three-year extension.
The House passed the law requiring a nationwide deployment of PTC on all passenger lines and routes that carry hazardous materials following an accident in California on September 12 2008 in which a Union Pacific Freight train collided head on with a Metrolink commuter train killing 25 people. Assertions that PTC, which can determine the speed and location of a train, warn drivers of potential problems, and take action to stop a train if there is no response to a warning, could have prevented the accident, led the House to pass legislation that required the rollout of PTC on 117,482km of track by the end of 2015.
The extension and stipulation changes are likely to be welcomed by Class I freight railways which have consistently criticised the tight timeframe for implementation and the substantial cost of the rollout, which the Federal Railroad Administration estimates at $US 13.2bn over 20 years.
The $US 260bn bill, which is described by committee chairman Republican Mr John Mica as the "the largest transportation reform bill since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956," would also implement changes to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) programme.
Under the RRFI programme eligible railways and state and local governments, government-sponsored authorities and corporations or joint-ventures can apply for direct loans and loan-guarantees of up to $US 35bn to improve or rehabilitate intermodal or rail equipment or facilities. The new legislation is intended to encourage greater participation in the scheme and to make the loan process faster, more efficient and predictable. In addition, high-speed rail projects would be eligible for the RRIF programme for the first time.
However, bill also includes provisions that would enable states to increase size and weight limit of lorries potentially damaging the attractiveness of rail freight over road.