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Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC)

Commuter Rail in Concord during springtime

As part of a federal mandate passed by Congress in 2008, the MBTA is installing Positive Train Control (PTC) technology across all Commuter Rail lines. The goal is to have the PTC system fully operational by the end of 2020.

PTC will improve safety on Commuter Rail by automatically reducing a train’s speed or even stopping it to avoid a collision or derailment.

See how PTC improvements will affect your trip


The MBTA’s PTC system is designed to prevent:

  • Train-to-train collisions
  • Derailments caused by high speed
  • Trains speeding through work zones where crews are near the tracks
  • Unexpected movement of trains through “open” switches

The system works through:

  • On-board controls that monitor and regulate a train’s speed if the operator fails to
  • Signals along the rail corridor that transmit safety data
  • System-wide communications throughout the commuter rail network
  • An upgraded, centralized dispatch for the network

This project impacts every element of the commuter rail system—the tracks on every line, hardware and software in the dispatch center, signal houses, antennae, radios and hardware on the train engines, and more.


The PTC project will improve every commuter rail passenger’s safety by reducing human error in a range of scenarios, including possible derailments and collisions.

Project Timeline

Congress first passed the mandate for the installation of PTC systems in 2008. Their original deadline of 2015 was extended to December 31, 2018, with a further extension to December 31, 2020 available to transit authorities that meet key milestones.

Years2015 – 2016ActivitiesPTC installation contract awarded to Ansaldo STS USA, Inc. (ASTS); Notice to Proceed provided
Years2017 – 2018ActivitiesInstall hardware along all Commuter Rail lines
Years2018 – 2020ActivitiesInstall software and other technical elements needed to bring PTC system online; test PTC equipment/systems across each line

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

Board Presentations

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

Contact Information

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

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