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Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC)

Commuter rail train at a station platform.
Updated on November 29, 2017

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.

For the latest information on service disruptions and replacement shuttle bus schedules, see PTC Construction and Service Updates.

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:

  • Onboard 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.

  • 2015-2016: PTC installation contract awarded to Ansaldo STS USA, Inc. (ASTS); Notice to Proceed provided.
  • 2017-2018: Work to install hardware along all Commuter Rail lines.
  • 2018-2020: Installation of software and other technical elements needed to bring PTC system online.

Service Disruptions

To install the hardware for PTC along the tracks, weekend service will be suspended on each line for a period of time during 2017-2018. No more than 2 lines should be affected at any given time.

Weekend shutdowns will take place in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018.

Commuter Rail LinePTC Weekend Shutdowns
Commuter Rail LineFairmount LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsWeekends from December 2, 2017 to December 16, 2017
Commuter Rail LineFitchburg LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsScheduled for 2018
Commuter Rail LineFramingham/Worcester LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsScheduled for 2018
Commuter Rail LineFranklin LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsScheduled for 2018
Commuter Rail LineGreenbush LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsNo shutdown required
Commuter Rail LineHaverhill LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsWeekends from September 23, 2017 to November 25, 2017
Commuter Rail LineKingston/Plymouth LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsNo shutdown required
Commuter Rail LineLowell LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsWeekends from August 5, 2017 to September 30, 2017
Commuter Rail LineMiddleborough/Lakeville LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsNo shutdown required
Commuter Rail LineNeedham LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsWeekends from September 2, 2017 to October 21, 2017
Commuter Rail LineNewburyport/Rockport LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsWeekends from July 8, 2017 to August 26, 2017
Commuter Rail LineProvidence/Stoughton LinePTC Weekend ShutdownsNo shutdown required


December 4, 2017

PTC Construction and Service Updates

Shuttle buses replace train service on the Fairmount line for 3 weekends in December.

December 6, 2017

PTC Program Updates

Several lines are affected by day and night operations.

Contact Information

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