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Positive Train Control

Positive Train Control Masthead

What is Positive Train Control

Positive Train Control (PTC) is just that – positive! It’s an additional safety system designed to monitor and control train movement. With freight companies, Amtrak and SunRail all traveling on the same tracks, it is important that everyone is talking to each other. This also helps to protect people working on the tracks by assuring safe speeds through their work areas. Positive Train Control is a federally mandated system throughout the United States.

How it Works

By connecting Global Positioning Systems (GPS), radio communications, trackside interfacing units, back office servers and a dispatch control system, the train and crews receive vital information about when, where and at what speed to travel. The system communicates with the dispatch system and with train controls inside the locomotive. Information is transmitted live between these parties to ensure safe traffic patterns and safe locomotive speeds. Upcoming bends, curves and other criteria (e.g. regulatory limits) feed into the system assuring safe route-specific speeds for integrated trains.

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PTC is designed to reduce human error when traveling under normal conditions by automatically reducing a train’s speed, or even stopping the train, due to a high-speed concern or if another train is on the same track. In short, PTC assures safe travelling speed based on predetermined environmental factors and live updates in regards to the positioning of other trains integrated into the system.

How PTC Affects You

Regular SunRail operations will not be affected when PTC is up and running at full capacity. SunRail is installing equipment and training crews throughout the implementation process, which is why you may observe test trains without any passengers operating at atypical times (such as during overnight hours).


SunRail is scheduled to have Positive Train Control fully implemented ahead of the federal requirement of December 2020. Stay informed by visiting our News & Events page.

What Positive Train Control Does Not Prevent

Positive Train Control monitors train location and speed as a function of normal operations. PTC does not prevent collisions with vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, or any other object that may obstruct a train’s path. Practicing safe behavior is the most effective way to prevent collisions.

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