The Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) unanimously recommended late last week that the U.S. transportation secretary work to implement new "crashworthiness" performance standards for next-generation high-speed passenger-rail equipment that will operate in the United States.
The RSAC's action marks an important step in advancing U.S. high-speed rail, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release.
"This vote brings us closer to new jobs and manufacturing opportunities to make high-speed rail equipment for use here at home and abroad," he said.
The standards, which the FRA is developing now before they are published in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking later this year, will provide baseline safety requirements for next-generation rail equipment that would travel up to speeds of 220 mph on high-speed track. The standards also will provide the flexibility to operate with existing freight- and passenger-rail systems at speeds up to 125 mph, FRA officials said.
The RSAC's action "is a continuation of the FRA's move away from prescription regulations towards more performance-based regulatory environment," said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo.
The standards are intended to provide an alternative to existing rail-car crashworthiness requirements that have influenced the type of car equipment built and used in the U.S. market for nearly a century, FRA officials said.
The proposal would establish performance-based requirements for an interoperable rail network, permitting the use of "service proven" designs and advanced technologies, while ensuring a consistent, systematic approach to safety, they said.
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