Metra today released a final new BNSF Line schedule, which had to be revised because of the demands of the new Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system. In crafting the revision, Metra considered the comments of more than 2,000 people who emailed the agency about the initial proposed schedule, which was unveiled in March, and made adjustments where possible.
The new schedule will take effect June 11.
“We want to thank BNSF riders for providing us with feedback about our proposed schedule,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “While we could not accommodate everyone who commented and made suggestions, we were able to make some modifications based on the input we received.”
Changes that were made to the proposed schedule include new departure and arrival times for certain trains, and added or removed stops for certain trains, mostly to address gaps in service or to provide more options at particular stations. Some trains also were renumbered. A summary of the changes that were made in response to customer feedback can be found here. The final revised schedule can be viewed here, and copies of the final new schedule will soon be available on trains and at Chicago Union Station.
In addition to adjusting the schedule for PTC, Metra and BNSF Railway made other changes to relieve overcrowding on some of the busiest trains, match the schedule to actual operating conditions and reduce bunching at a choke point near Cicero. As a result, there are numerous minor changes to the total running times and the station stop patterns of trains. There are no changes to weekend trains at this time. Pace is working with Metra to coordinate schedules.
PTC is a federally mandated safety system that will automatically stop a train if the engineer fails to obey a signal or exceeds the speed limit. The system integrates GPS, trackside sensors and communications units, onboard computers and Metra’s centralized train dispatching system. Together, these components track trains and monitor the crew’s compliance with speed restrictions and signals. Although it can’t prevent all accidents, PTC increases safety by preventing train-to-train collisions, unauthorized entry into work zones and derailments due to speeding or moving through misaligned track switches.
Under PTC, the crew of a train must initialize the system before each individual run. This includes entering information about the size and makeup of the train (because its weight affects its stopping distance) and any other details about conditions along the route (such as work zones or speed restrictions) that could affect the safe operation of the train. The initialization process is expected to take about six minutes.
On the current BNSF schedule there are about 30 instances in which a train completes a run and turns around to start a new one in less than 10 minutes, typically at the ends of the line but occasionally mid-route. In those 10 minutes, the engineer must move from the cab car to the locomotive or vice versa, and the crew must clear the train, perform a brake test and conduct a job briefing. With the added task of initializing the PTC system, these “flips” are expected to take 12 to 15 minutes, so the schedule of many trains must be adjusted for increased turn times, and those changes, in turn, will affect nearly all other trains on the schedule.
Similar changes will be needed on other lines with tight flips as PTC is implemented.
BNSF Railway anticipates that PTC will be fully operational on the BNSF Line this year. UP also expects to have PTC operational on its lines starting this year. For Metra, PTC will start on the Rock Island Line this year and on the other lines in 2019 and 2020.