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New GO Train Control+Signalling (PTC, CBTC, ETC) -- Safety & Subway-Like Frequency

It would be interesting to hear GO's estimate. Here's a ballpark for the industry
That's for the whole country (USA).

For just GOTransit's network, if the pricing is proportionate on a network size basis to those costs, I'd guess a very, very rough ballpark $500M for the basics (RER segment of network + all GO trainsets). That is, Metrolinx's entire fleet of trains, combined with PTC on the RER segments to begin with. That way, all trains going over PTC-enabled portions of GO network, operate with PTC. Feds would add PTC capability to the VIA trains that run over Metrolinx corridor. Non-PTC-enabled freight trains would be barred transit on Metrolinx-owned corridor except by special emergency detour clearance at night. There is probably a laundry list conditions that Transport Canada may require of GO, if they choose to permit non-FRA trainsets on certain routes (e.g. fully grade-separated, addition of PTC, PTC on all trains that uses PTC-enabled track, no freight trains, etc). Even if all trains must always be FRA, the safety aspects is still worthwhile. Full GO network, plus cost overruns, PTC all the way to the peripheries may cost more, maybe $1B?

I could be off by a factor of two or so, but it certianly would not cost $5B (a significant fraction of USA country-wide). $500M seems to be the kind of a cost, that on a 15-year plan, could actually be embedded into a pre-existing operating budget, without needing a special Ontario budget. It's politically fairly easy -- who wouldn't want safer trains especially when GO network gets more congested, and train disasters happen elsewhere? They want to eventually push double the number of trains through Union, after all!
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Well, even at $500 million, it would not be a worthwhile investment in terms of lives saved. The majority of train accident fatalities involve collisions with cars and trucks, so it would be better to spend that money on grade separation.

But if PTC were seen as a way to increase speed and capacity, that's another matter of course.
I wonder if GO has some statistical modelling for risk versus frequency, and what point PTC becomes` warranted on GO's network. There's been a good safety record thus far with no deaths of a passenger aboard a GOtrain in Metrolinx's history, and it was only recently someone died on a GObus accident.

More easily safely supporting higher capacity via short headways could be good reason, though if it's a condition for GO to obtain a wider flexibility of trainsets (e.g. non-FRA trains) then that is an additional incentive. Given a sufficiently large enough number of trainsets, it may even pay for PTC.

But yes, eliminating all the level crossings, that is a funding priority first.
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Positive Train Control is apparently one of Transport Canada's proposed requirements before permitting lighter-rail vehicles on the GOtrain network.

Using advanced Google-Fu syntax, I homed into the major mentions of Metrolinx's use of "Positive Train Control" in publicly available PDF documents.

It seems that Metrolinx believes it is a required part of the GO RER expansion, given the need for reliable 15-minute service concurrently on many routes:
Metrolinx said:
Service Concept will require the following types of infrastructure:
• New track and signal enhancements, including positive train control

According to their current 5-year plan released less than a year ago, they are finishing a feasibility study this year on PTC:
Metrolinx said:
Pursue implementation of Positive Train Control, as the technology becomes available, in order to maintain a leadership position in rail safety:
• Complete feasibility study (2015)

Also, Metrolinx acknowledges the FRA requirement:
Metrolinx said:
Further, the Federal Railroad Administration in the United States has imposed regulations requiring implementation of a train operation safety mechanism knows as Positive Train Control (PTC) by 2015. PTC systems integrate command, control, communication and information systems to control train speed, location and movement in real time. In response, the Canadian government is considering introducing PTC legislation in Canada.

So I conclude, based on recent Metrolinx talk (newer than 12 months), PTC seems probably budgeted as part of the $13.5bn GO RER electrification. The timeline is long enough and the US systems will quickly mature within 10 years, so SmartTrack funding probably includes PTC. I imagine the planned USRC resignalling will probably be PTC compliant as the resignalling coincides with this. It does make sense as it quadruples weekly GOtrain traffic (1500 --> 6000 weekly trips) and they intended to resignal the corridors anyway.
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Using advanced Google-Fu search syntax, I was finally able to dig up evidence of Transport Canada flexibility on non-FRA trainsets:

Metrolinx said:
Transport Canada has recently indicated that they may be more flexible with the FRA structural strength requirements, which might open opportunities for GO to study a broader range of European and Asian EMUs and DMUs. Specifically, they stated their intent to require new GO vehicles to either:
 Meet FRA structure strength and crash worthiness for passenger cars, or
 Maintain temporal separation from freight and heavy rail passenger traffic, or
 Operate under some form of Positive Train Control (PTC) signalling system

So there you go, an actual government document that confirms Transport Canada stated they will consider allowing PTC to allow non-FRA commuter trains sets. We might able to get those beautiful European-style commuter trains, after all (and our Bombardier also makes some of them too.... Trains we're not yet allowed to run for North America commuter trail yet).

Also, we know from multiple media reports, that SmartTrack might be "light rail" (suggestive of non-FRA) proposal, found in multiple documents. Not "light rail" as streetcars, but "lighter than FRA" rail as in Euro style EMUs.

With Metrolinx ownership, we now have really good temporal freight separation already on the segment of GOtrain network slated for electricifation. From what I have researched (see prior posts), we see near-definite intention of Metrolinx introducing PTC during the GO RER electricifation upgrade.

I think based on the Google-Fu I've done so far, we can safely predict non-FRA EMUs is "on the table" (i.e. 10 years) for coming to certain GO routes, perhaps starting with the Unionville-to-Bramalea RER segment (ala whatever SmartTrack becomes).
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Question to vegata_skyline or smallspy, etc:

I see suggestive evidence that the newly expanded Georgetown Corridor has a portion of PTC infrastructure already deployed into it. I also see suggestive evidence UPX is compatible with PTC systems. But I was unable to find a definitive quote (yet).

Is this correct?
What's a ballpark cost estimate for PTC on the full GO network? $500 million? $5 billion?
We now know:

$200 million for PTC
$800 million for CBTC
And it's already part of the GO RER budget...
Price quotes of PTC/CBTC come from section 5.6, Page 145 labelled, Page 161 PDF viewer.

An enhanced train control technology is already part of the GO electrification budget, from what I am reading.

Also, further selected quotes:

Metrolinx said:
TRAIN CONTROL: Enhanced Train Control (ETC) is a prudent and necessary investment given the level of services now being operated. This may be of a type of train control, such as Positive Train Control (PTC) and Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC).
Metrolinx said:
In all scenarios, allowance is made for installation of ETC (and associated costs) to varying extents within the five scenarios.
Metrolinx said:
It is noted that PTC is not yet a legal requirement in Canada but it is mandated in the U.S., and many RER systems in other countries have a train control system with similar functionality. PTC’s effect on capacity is not yet known; it should be noted that CBTC is the working assumption for the Scenario 5 (10-Year Plan Optimized) RER program.
Metrolinx said:
Installing new train control systems to enable higher frequency services.
(and more, cementing an ETC system as being germane to RER).

The Scenario 5 is the GO electrification (EMU scenario).
If GO is receiving EMUs at all, then we're getting a form of ETC too, needed anyway to milk the EMU advantages (short headways) -- meaning we'd get CBTC to go with them.

FRA structural strength requirements are also possibly being relaxed (Table 30):
Metrolinx said:
Technical Standards: GO currently voluntarily complies with US FRA and American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) standards which are optimized for mixed operation with freight.
Metrolinx said:
It is assumed for the purpose of this IBC that GO: 1) adopts international (UIC and EN) technical standards;2) this approach is accepted by Transport Canada under the Alternate Practice policy; and 3) by CN and CPR where they interact with RER services. Operating rule changes would need to be discussed and confirmed with Transport Canada and other bodies. This discussion with Transport Canada is particularly important with respect to rolling stock, train control and electrification costs.
The word "important" and "costs" being applied to the discussion to Transport Canada...

Billions from 3 levels of government (... the SmartTrack pitch in to the GO RER budget...) results in many tapping feet and twiddling thumbs at Transport Canada, breathing fire down at them to make a decision on rules & safety requirements -- and given the apparent intent of $800M spend for GO-wide CBTC.

...we might overhear Pearson ATC reporting flying pigs on their radar.
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Is the main difference between PTC and CBTC the ability to have full automation under CBTC? Any other differences?

PTC is not a signal system - all it does is enforce the various speed restrictions on the railway.

CBTC isn't either, but is rather a method to communicate signal indications to the operating crews and track/train status to the controllers. CBTC does allow for the ability to run an automated train, but there are other methods of doing it as well.

Toronto, Ont.
$200 million for PTC
This string is crucial to moving things forward. RE: your quote...that is *very* affordable in the big scheme of things. There's got to be other spin-off benefits to the most recent APT systems, not the least real-time equipment monitoring. (Some of the most modern systems tie-in to the safety and reporting functions).

Just glancing back at some of the earlier posts, some very good ones I have to catch-up on, but just did a quick Google to put context to one of the earliest posts, a quote from USToday, and it immediately struck me as being industry foot-dragging excuse. Many better systems are fully qualified now, but for a perspective on how 'out of whack' some claims are:

[If you step onto a train in Uzbekistan, you’ll discover a system far more advanced than anything built in the United States. The 4-year-old Afrosiyob high-speed rail system connects the country’s two major cities with a modern, efficient and safe train that can get from one end of the 214-mile line to the other in 90 minutes. That’s roughly the same distance Amtrak trains travel between Boston and New York, a trip that takes nearly four hours.

And like many other rail systems of the United States (and underdeveloped countries), Afrosiyub is technologically safer because high-speed rail lines utilize high-tech accident-avoidance systems that have been implemented only on short stretches by Amtrak, which shuttles more than 30 million people every year, mainly through its Northeast Corridor.

“The Northeast Corridor has a hodgepodge of modern train control systems,” said Richard Harnish, executive director of the Chicago-based Midwest High Speed Rail Association. “We haven’t spent the money on the train tracks, and so Amtrak has been piecing together a patchwork system. We should make the existing infrastructure state of the art.”][...]

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With VIA apparently very eager to electrify a little earlier than I expected them to...
(...they have been making strong behind the scene pitches in recent weeks, and will soon be submitting a plan to Federal Government for due consideration...)

This means an electric VIA potentially arriving mere years from GO RER, all in the 2020s.

The pieces need interoperability:
- Metrolinx electrification Kitchener thru Oshawa/Bowmanville
- VIA electrification Oshawa/Bowmanville thru Ottawa thru Montreal
- AMT electrification in Quebec

VIA is apparently planning/deploying some form of ETC for Ottawa.
Has there been discussion to agree to a unified CBTC standard?
Will trains transiting through all the systems need to support multiple incompatible signal standards.
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Related topic: I presume an ETC failure (CBTC signal problems) instantly failovers to the traditional track signals, and upon being inside a restricted block (during CBTC signal loss situation) results in a train immediately braking automatically to prevent enroaching into last-known train positions.

I assume the legacy block signals are kept as a failover for CBTC fail. I also assume it depends on the specific operating rules ultimately chosen/permitted by Transport Canada. Specifics such as allowing CBTC to let trains enroach into certain kinds of restricted blocks (a traditional block already in use or adjacent to one by another CBTC equipped train, but has room for a second CBTC-equipped train) a little bit more permissively for shorter headways than the traditional block signals would permit in current operating rules.

For readers not aware, CBTC can allow trains to follow trains closely at braking distance in a continuous moving block system. Probably not done right away, but CBTC is a very key piece of a "moving block" system, if traditional block signals eventually only became a failover rather than the primary system on the Meteolinx segment of the rail network... You could eventually in theory permit CBTC to become the primary signal system in the CBTC corridors, but initially they might do CBTC only informationally, and then to raise yellow-signal speed limits (for yellows causes by CBTC equpped trains in block ahead).

Allowing CBTC-equipped trains to stay at speed longer, and shorten headways a little bit by bit... till they trust CBTC to become the primary and let two CBTC equipped trains into the same long traditional block at full track speed... (Eek! Bet you train drivers really need some years to fully trust CBTC first before this happens).

Negotiations with Transport Canada presumably includes niggly little details like a staged transition process taking years or decades...

Basically varying extents of less/more restrictive versions of a possible moving block system overlay on fixed blocks, with a clear and safe failover sequence.

I have not seen CBTC equipment inside a cab, but presumably it needs to be GOOD STUFF enough to be trusted by the train driver going through peasoup fog behind a rail curve past a legacy red trackside signal... Easily seeing the trains ahead and behind in a user/operator-friendly manner.

A long term gradual operating rules migration path of some kind between prioritizing one control system over the other. And obviously, all rules for programming an automatic stopping sequence on a danger conditions, and years of simulating/realife testing in the CBTC transition. CBTC would become informational at first, then suggestive, then change yellow operating rules, shrink any introductory safety margin, then finally the verboten full speed into fixed red block (if red signal is only because of a CBTC train inside it but far ahead of braking distance)... At least rougly along these lines, in theory. Obviously, not the full progression necessarily for "RER Phase I"

We are possibly going to end up becoming one of the largest North American commuter rail systems to do a long term transition to a moving block system, given the short headways being thrown about (4mins, 6mins, 10mins)...

Stevetoronto, any guidance/docs by FRA or ERA / etc on a slow transition from fixed blocks to moving blocks via CBTC overlay on traditional signalling?

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Stevetoronto, any guidance/docs by FRA or ERA / etc on a slow transition from fixed blocks to moving blocks via CBTC overlay on traditional signalling?


It's a good question, and I'm unfamiliar with the latest advances on moving block....but I see immediate similarity with aircraft landing and taking off. There is barely enough headway to clear the preceding or lagging one. It's all computer/sensor control with...wait for it...pilot eyesight and discretion to intervene. So the precedent is there, my question is how this is being implemented elsewhere. I'm sure it can work, look at the Docklands Railway in London, and one of the tube lines, completely automated, albeit as to what signalling system and protocol I'd have to look up.