On February 19, 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration approved Marquette Rail, LLC’s Product Safety Plan (PSP) as outlined in 49 CFR Part 236 Sub Part H (Subpart H), allowing Marquette to use RailSoft Systems Inc.’s TrackAccess Track Reservation System in the autonomous mode. This approval follows 7 years of FRA scrutiny of the TrackAccess system on G&W’s Marquette Rail in Ludington, MI. Marquette Rail now operates a controled track railroad without a dispatcher or controller. In accordance with Subpart H, TrackAccess was required to prove that its system of track control was safer than the system it replaced, a manual Track Warrant Control (TWC ) system. Critical to the process was the completion of a Fault Tree Analysis, to compare the risk associated with TrackAccess to that of the replaced TWC system. The Transportation Testing Center, Inc. (Pueblo) performed the analysis and concluded that the hazardous event rate for a manual TWC system was between 8 and 24 times higher than the rate for the TrackAccess system, showing TrackAccess provides a significant safety improvement. A subsequent evaluation by TTCI indicated that TrackAccess is also substantially safer than a computer aided TWC system. The FRA approval allows TrackAccess to be deployed in autonomous mode on other US railroads which have an approved Railroad Safety Program Plan (RSPP) and Track Access PSP.
Rick Jany, who was the Marquette Rail general manager during the PSP approval process, stated “As the General Manager of Marquette Rail LLC for over 7 years, we operated a 130 mile railroad utilizing the TrackAccess system. With 4 daily scheduled trains, along with the necessary MOW forces on our main track, our railroad could get pretty busy. The TrackAccess system was more than up to the task: it not only met but exceeded all operational requirements and it also expanded our capabilities. As manager, almost all the information I needed to know came directly to my cell phone 24-7. TrackAccess excelled in safety and productivity at a fraction of the expense of conventional dispatcher controlled systems. It is so simple and easy it is a ‘no-brainer’ for most short line roads.”
RailSoft System President Tom Howie said he was very happy with receipt of the final approval. ”This has certainly been a long and difficult process, but a valuable learning experience. We (RailSoft Systems) have worked very hard to achieve this level of safety and productivity in a track control system.” When asked why he thought TrackAccess was able to achieve such stunning fault tree number versus the Track Warrant System, especially one that is computer supported, he replied “TrackAccess is an operating system built around the capabilities of technology whereas TWC is an operating system to which available technology was applied after the fact. It makes a big difference.”
The TrackAccess system is available for use either with or without dispatchers, depending upon a railroad’s needs to schedule track usage based on activity level on the track. It may also be used in dispatcher mode during periods of high activity, being switched to autonomous mode during periods of low activity.
RailSoft Systems is a leading supplier of industry specific software to the short line railroad community. Its InfoRail program is the top certification compliance system in the industry, helping manage the certification of over 10,000 engineers and conductors across the country. The RS HOS system is used by many of the same railroads to ensure compliance with the FRA Hours of Service rules as well. For additional information regarding RailSoft Systems, please call (864) 366-8132 or visit its website at www.poweredbyrtc.com.