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Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC)

Commuter Rail in Concord during springtime

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.

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 'Demonstration Phase' and How it Could Affect Your Ride

The PTC system is engineered to prevent accidents. If an issue comes up, a built-in "fail safe" measure will stop or slow the train until the issue is resolved.

All hardware and software installation has been completed, and the project is now in the 'demonstration' phase. This means that Commuter Rail trains are operating with PTC technology running so that safety parameters can be fine-tuned and performance can be monitored.

During this time, we will be adjusting the system to ensure that it operates properly. As with any new technology, this process will take time. On occasion, the system may slow or stop your train if anomalies are detected. Please bear with us as we work through this important process.

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

Presentations to the Board

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.