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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA safety committee endorses 'crashworthiness' equipment standards for high-speed rail


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.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/17/2013