BNSF - Positive Train Control - PTC

Leading the Way in PTC

BNSF has completed installation of all mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) infrastructure on our network. We are operating trains with PTC protections on the mandated lines as we continue to test and refine this highly complex system.


As per the federal mandate, BNSF has installed the PTC infrastructure on all 88 required subdivisions, covering more than 11,500 route miles and 80 percent of our freight volume. We are running hundreds of trains daily with PTC as we test operating in revenue service across our entire mandated territory.

On Track for Success

BNSF will invest approximately $2 billion in PTC implementation. We have operated over one million trains with PTC and continue to test and refine this highly complex system that must work as designed to support safe and efficient train operations. Across BNSF’s required subdivisions:

BNSF PTC Progress

These metrics represent where BNSF stands in some key areas as of December 31, 2017. They are derived from BNSF’s quarterly PTC progress report to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Looking to the Future

Interoperability is a challenge and focus in 2018. This means another railroad’s locomotive can access another railroad’s network and still have PTC protection. Interoperability of PTC systems between Class I, commuter and short line rail carriers is a vital concern. BNSF is unable to test interoperability on a wide scale until other railroads have also completed their infrastructure installation.

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Advancing Interoperability

BNSF is leading the North American freight rail industry with PTC interoperability. In cooperation with Metrolink in Southern California, a PTC-equipped train can now begin its journey on BNSF and seamlessly transition to Metrolink territory. Metrolink can do the same with BNSF – an important achievement since one of the primary purposes of PTC is to provide protection where railroads run freight and passenger service. We look forward to working with other railways to expand interoperability and with the FRA to ensure PTC enhances rail safety wherever it operates.

What is PTC?

PTC is technology that overlays existing train hardware and software. As mandated by law, PTC is intended to prevent:

  • Train-to-train collisions.
  • Derailments caused by excessive speed.
  • Unauthorized incursions by trains onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place.
  • Movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.

How it works

PTC uses GPS, Wi-Fi and high-band radio transmission to:

  • Ensure the train does not exceed its authority.
  • Determine the location, direction and speed of the train.
  • Take action by stopping the train if there is not a response by the train crew.

There are three main elements of a PTC system, which are integrated by a wireless communications system:

  • Onboard Locomotive System: Monitors the train’s position and speed and activates braking as necessary to enforce speed restrictions and unauthorized train movement into new sections of track.
  • Wayside System: Monitors railroad track signals, switches and track circuits to communicate movement authorization to the locomotive.
  • Back Office Server: The storehouse for all information related to the rail network and trains operating across it. It transmits the authorization for individual trains to move into new segments of track.