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Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC)

A crew works on signal upgrades in Weston as a Commuter Rail train passes by

By December 2020, most every passenger rail system across the country (including ours) will have an added layer of safety — Positive Train Control (PTC).

An Investment in Safety

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires every railroad across the country to have PTC. By the end of 2020, the MBTA will have invested nearly half a billion dollars in safety, and Commuter Rail customers, plus the cities and towns trains travel through, will have an added layer of protection against train accidents.

Diversions

Building a Better T

As part of our $8 billion, 5-year capital investment plan, we're renovating stations, modernizing fare collection systems, upgrading services for our buses, subways, and ferries, and improving the accessibility of the entire system.

Learn more

The Benefits of PTC and How PTC Works

PTC is a train monitoring system that will alert the engineer when it detects the possibility of either a train-to-train collision or a train that's moving too fast along the line or through a work zone. The MBTA's PTC system is also designed to prevent unexpected movement of trains through "open switches." The safety technology monitors a train’s location, direction, and speed in real time. If the crew does not respond to an alert, PTC will take over and automatically stop the train.

The safety system works through signals and transponders along the rail corridor that transmit data to the train, onboard controls that can regulate a train’s speed, and communications throughout the commuter rail network.

The ‘Calibration Phase’ and How it Could Affect Your Ride

As of 2020, all PTC hardware and software installation is complete. Trains operate with PTC technology, and we are in the “Calibration Phase” of the PTC project.

Calibrating the PTC System

PTC technology continuously “reads” a train’s movement or speed via hundreds of signals along the tracks. Should a signal not provide information, or if it is outside of preset parameters, the PTC system will send an alert to the train engineer and slow or stop the train until the alert is resolved to ensure safety.

How the Calibration Phase Could Affect Your Ride

During the first month or so of the calibration phase, riders may experience delays of 5 to 15 minutes while each alert is resolved and/or measurements are adjusted. As the system gets fine-tuned in the following months, there will be fewer and fewer unnecessary slowing or stopping instances.

Thank you for your patience during this important phase of the PTC project. We are doing all we can to calibrate the system effectively and efficiently to reduce its impact on your commute and to make your ride safer.

Project Timeline

Service Alerts

To install and test PTC systems along the tracks (including running PTC test trains), weekend and off-peak service may need to be suspended for various Commuter Rail lines for periods of time during 2019 – 2020.

Check Commuter Rail alerts

Photo Gallery

Presentations to the Board

We invite you to review recent documents presented to the Fiscal Management and Control Board.

Past Events

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Contact Information

For all queries and comments related to Commuter Rail Positive Train Control, please contact the PTC Hotline at PTCProgram@mbta.com or 617-721-7506.

Recent Updates

View all project updates

Diversions

Building a Better T

As part of our $8 billion, 5-year capital investment plan, we're renovating stations, modernizing fare collection systems, upgrading services for our buses, subways, and ferries, and improving the accessibility of the entire system.

Learn more

Recent Updates

View all project updates