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FRA to revise safety regulations, promote ECP brake systems

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) plans to revise safety regulations to promote the “most significant development in railroad brake technology since the 1870s.” Today, the federal agency announced it will rewrite federal safety rules governing the installation of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brake systems, which are designed to shorten train stopping distances and prevent derailments.

Next year, the FRA will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise federal brake system safety standards and encourage railroads to deploy ECP brake technology. FRA officials will consider plans from railroads interested in using ECP brakes before rule changes are implemented, the administration said. ECP brakes are applied uniformly and virtually instantaneously on every rail car instead of sequentially from one car to the next.

Last year, 14 percent of train accidents on mainline track were caused by human error involving improper train handling or misuse of automatic braking systems, according to FRA statistics. ECP brakes could reduce those types of accidents, as well as derailments caused by sudden emergency brake applications and runaway trains caused by brake air pressure loss, the FRA said.

“ECP brakes are to trains what anti-lock brakes are to automobiles — they provide better control,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement, adding that ECP systems can reduce stopping distances up to 60 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/17/2006