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The Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Office of Railroad Safety has completed a yearlong reorganization to improve the regulation of railroad safety, regulators announced in the agency's newsletter.
Two key aspects of the reorganization are the creation of safety management teams (SMTs) for Class Is, short lines and commuter railroads, and the "re-alignment" of safety inspectors' reporting responsibilities, the newsletter states.
The reorganization was the "most significant" since the FRA was established, FRA Administrator Ronald Batory wrote in a column included in the newsletter.
"I believe this organization will usher in a new era in railroad safety oversight that will lead to improved safety throughout the national railroad network," Batory wrote.
Although railroad safety improved dramatically from 2000 to 2010, the past 10 years have been mostly "static," he said.
"I don't believe we have reached the point where safety cannot improve, but I do believe we need new ideas and a bold approach," Batory added.
The reorganization, which went into effect June 8, is the agency's answer to the plateau in safety statistics, as well as to significant changes in railroad operations, including the implementation of safety management systems; emerging and evolving technology; and efforts to improve data quality and use.
The new SMTs will serve as the primary FRA point of contact for a Class I or group of railroads to be a partner in finding solutions or solving potential safety issues.
While the number of inspectors remains the same, the agency realigned inspectors and specialists under their respective discipline headquarters staff directors, so that each has a single technical authority to guide how regulations are enforced.
The agency also created an office to address new technologies and another to serve as a liaison to labor organizations and rail industry associations.
"I'm confident that the professional dedication and passion that I've witnessed across the agency will be the key factor that makes this reorganization a success and lead to new improvements in railroad safety," Batory's column concludes.