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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA advises passenger railroads to do more to prevent speeding

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday issued a safety advisory that recommends passenger railroads take action to prevent trains from speeding.

The advisory is the FRA's latest step to address safety issues for passenger-rail services following two high-profile fatal accidents involving speeding trains that derailed. The most recent incident occurred last month, when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight and injuring 200 passengers. Although the exact cause has not yet been determined, federal investigators have said the train was traveling more than twice the posted speed limit when it derailed.

The earlier incident involved an MTA Metro-North Railroad train that derailed in December 2013 after the train sped through a curve at more than twice the speed limit. That accident resulted in four passenger deaths. In that case, the investigation revealed that the locomotive engineer fell asleep shortly before the derailment.

"The FRA fully expects passenger railroads to take immediate action and implement these recommendations," said Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg in a press release. "We will continue to take action in the coming weeks to prevent human error from causing accidents and to keep passengers safe on the nation’s railroads."

The FRA wants passenger railroads to:
• identify locations where there is a reduction of more than 20 mph from the approach speed to a curve or bridge, along with the maximum authorized operating speed for passenger trains at that curve or bridge;
• modify automatic train control (ATC) systems, if in use, to ensure speed-limit compliance;
• ensure that train movements through the identified locations be made with a second qualified crew member in the locomotive cab if ATC is not in use; and
• install additional wayside signs alerting engineers and conductors of the maximum authorized speed throughout the railroad's system, with a particular emphasis on additional signage at the identified locations.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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