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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Quebec accident fallout: FRA's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee targets four key 'tasks' at emergency meeting


The Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) yesterday held an emergency session to begin considering additional regulatory or other safety measures due to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd.'s July 6 derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

RSAC members voted to accept four "task statements" addressing appropriate train crew size; requirements for securing trains; operational testing to ensure employees follow appropriate processes and procedures for securing trains; and the identification, classification, operational control and handling of hazardous materials during transport.

The committee now will establish working groups with the necessary expertise to examine each task, gather relevant facts and develop a range of options. The working groups will present their recommendations to the RSAC by April 2014, according to the FRA.

The RSAC is a technical and policy stakeholder advisory group that makes recommendations to the FRA on rail safety issues. Members include representatives from every facet of the rail industry.

The fact that the FRA arranged the first emergency meeting of the committee in 17 years "speaks very clearly to the important job ahead" in bolstering safety after the Lac-Mégantic accident, said Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo during the meeting.

"When lives are lost, when families are broken, when a town is nearly wiped out, this is a reminder that our job — when it comes to safety — is never done." he said. "It becomes our duty to take a hard look at what happened, to understand where additional risk remains in our rail system, and to look for those ways we can spare other towns from similar tragedies. This is why we are here today."

During the next few weeks, the FRA plans to begin tracking industry compliance with both an emergency order the administration issued earlier this month that outlines additional steps railroads must take to prevent unintentional train movements, and a safety advisory the FRA issued with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that includes a detailed list of post-accident safety recommendations. The tracking will be performed on the FRA's website "so the public can have full transparency," said Szabo.

The dialogue at the emergency session "will serve to build upon the comprehensive regulatory framework we already have in place, and allow us to further enhance safety by eliminating additional risk from the railroad system," he said.