Skip to main content

Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC)

A crew works on signal upgrades in Weston as a Commuter Rail train passes by

As of August 2020, the MBTA Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system is active on all the MBTA Commuter Rail lines.

Building a Better T

As part of our $8 billion, 5-year capital investment plan, we're renovating stations, modernizing fare collection systems, upgrading services for our buses, subways, and ferries, and improving the accessibility of the entire system.

Learn more

The Benefits of PTC and How PTC Works

PTC is a train monitoring system that alerts the engineer when it detects the possibility of either a train-to-train collision or a train that's moving too fast along the line or through a work zone. The MBTA's PTC system is also designed to prevent unexpected movement of trains through "open switches." The safety technology monitors a train’s location, direction, and speed in real time. If the crew does not respond to an alert, PTC will take over and automatically stop the train.

The safety system works through signals and transponders along the rail corridor that transmit data to the train, onboard controls that can regulate a train’s speed, and communications throughout the commuter rail network.

PTC on the MBTA Commuter Rail System

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires every railroad across the country to have PTC.

The PTC System was completed prior to the December 31, 2020 deadline and the MBTA is in full compliance with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) PTC regulations.

  • All of the MBTA’s commuter rail lines have PTC in operation (394 of 394 route miles); the last segment was placed in service on August 15, 2020.
  • All MBTA commuter rail revenue vehicles have PTC equipment installed and fully operational.
  • Interoperability testing with tenant railroads (Amtrak, CSX, and Pan Am) has been completed.

Automatic Train Control (ATC) Upgrades

ATC (Automatic Train Control, or Cab Signals) displays signal indications in the train cab instead using physical signal lights alongside the tracks.

  • The MBTA PTC System requires ATC to achieve the greatest level of safety.
  • As part of PTC implementation, all the south side lines have ATC as part of the signal system.

PTC operation on the north side will require full installation of ATC on all north side lines (Lowell, Fitchburg, Haverhill Newburyport and Rockport) by December 2022.

Project Timeline

Service Alerts

To implement and test PTC and ATC systems along the tracks (including running PTC test trains), service may need to be suspended for various Commuter Rail lines for periods of time during 2021-2022.

Check Commuter Rail alerts

Photo Gallery

Presentations to the Board

We invite you to review recent documents presented to the Fiscal Management and Control Board.

Past Events

View all events

Contact Information

For all queries and comments related to Commuter Rail Positive Train Control, please contact the PTC Hotline at PTCProgram@mbta.com or 617-721-7506.

Recent Updates

View all project updates

Building a Better T

As part of our $8 billion, 5-year capital investment plan, we're renovating stations, modernizing fare collection systems, upgrading services for our buses, subways, and ferries, and improving the accessibility of the entire system.

Learn more

Recent Updates

View all project updates