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Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC)

Updated on November 22, 2018

Commuter rail train at a station platform.

About the Project

Timeline: 2015-2020
Status: Construction

As part of a federal mandate passed by Congress in 2008, the MBTA is installing Positive Train Control (PTC) technology across all Commuter Rail lines. The goal is to have all hardware installed by December 2018 and to have the PTC system fully operational by the end of 2020.

PTC can automatically reduce a train’s speed or even stop it to avoid a collision or derailment. It will improve safety and reduce human error on the commuter rail.

See how PTC improvements will affect your trip


The MBTA’s PTC system is designed to prevent:

  • Train-to-train collisions
  • Derailments caused by high speed
  • Trains speeding through work zones where crews are near the tracks
  • Unexpected movement of trains through “open” switches

The system works through:

  • On-board controls that monitor and regulate a train’s speed if the operator fails to
  • Signals along the rail corridor that transmit safety data
  • System-wide communications throughout the commuter rail network
  • An upgraded, centralized dispatch for the network

This project impacts every element of the commuter rail system—the tracks on every line, hardware and software in the dispatch center, signal houses, antennae, radios and hardware on the train engines, and more.


The PTC project will improve every commuter rail passenger’s safety by reducing human error in a range of scenarios, including possible derailments and collisions.

Project Timeline

Congress first passed the mandate for the installation of PTC systems in 2008. Their original deadline of 2015 was extended to December 31, 2018, with a further extension to December 31, 2020 available to transit authorities that meet key milestones.

Years2015 – 2016ActivitiesPTC installation contract awarded to Ansaldo STS USA, Inc. (ASTS); Notice to Proceed provided
Years2017 – 2018ActivitiesInstall hardware along all Commuter Rail lines
Years2018 – 2020ActivitiesInstall software and other technical elements needed to bring PTC system online; test PTC equipment/systems across each line

Service Alerts

To test installed PTC systems along the tracks (including running PTC test trains), weekend and off-peak service may need to be suspended for various Commuter Rail lines for periods of time during 2018 – 2020.

Learn about weekend bus shuttles on the Lowell Line


December 13, 2018

PTC Weekly Activities

Several lines are affected by day and night operations.

November 22, 2018

Lowell Line Weekend Bus Shuttles

For weekends though December 2018, bus shuttles replace Commuter Rail service on the Lowell Line.

June 21, 2018

Worcester Line Weekend Bus Shuttles

For all weekends May 26 - July 29, bus shuttles replace Commuter Rail service on varying parts of the Worcetser Line.

May 4, 2018

Franklin Line Weekend Bus Shuttles

For all weekends April 7 - May 27, bus shuttles replace Commuter Rail service between Forge Park/495 and Readville.

Contact Information

For all queries and comments related to Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC), please contact: