BNSF - Positive Train Control - PTC

Leading the Way in PTC

BNSF is fully committed to Positive Train Control (PTC) technology. In fact, BNSF began developing PTC well before Congress mandated it for all Class I railroads in 2008. BNSF was the first and only railroad to operate PTC beginning in 2012, continues to lead the way in PTC implementation, and is on track to meet the Dec. 31, 2018, PTC implementation deadline.

What is PTC?

PTC is technology that overlays existing train hardware and software, designed to stop trains before certain types of accidents occur. PTC will prevent train-to-train collisions, enforce speed limits, protect roadway employees and equipment and prevent the movement of a train through a switch in the incorrect position.

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How it works

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

  • Determine the location, direction and speed of the train
  • Warn the train crew of a potential problem
  • Take action by stopping the train if there is not a response by the train crew.


The scope of BNSF’s PTC installation includes installing PTC technology on 5,000 locomotives and 11,300 miles of track – roughly half of the BNSF system and 80 percent of BNSF’s freight density. BNSF will invest approximately $2 billion in PTC implementation.

BNSF must address not only the issues of implementing PTC for freight service, but also the unique equipment, software and integration involved with passenger commuter railroads that operate on BNSF’s track.

BNSF is on track

BNSF is on track to meet the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline for PTC implementation. We continue to work closely with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to ensure PTC is done right and provide them an update on our progress every quarter. The above graphic illustrates our progress as of Sept. 30, 2017. While we are committed to meeting the PTC implementation deadline, we reserve the right to continue testing to address issues such as railroad interoperability.

PTC Mandate

Congress has mandated that PTC be implemented by Dec. 31, 2018, on all railroads on routes that carry passengers and/or toxic-by-inhalation (TIH) freight. Congress has stated it would possibly add an additional two years for railroads to test and fine tune already installed and at least partially operational PTC systems.