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FRA schedules compliance date for CWR joint bar inspection regulation


What was an interim rule last year will become a regulation by month’s end. On Oct. 31, U.S. railroads will need to begin complying with a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulation requiring more frequent and detailed inspections of continuous-welded rail (CWR) joint bars.

U.S. roads will need to inspect CWR joints at specified intervals up to four times a year based on track speeds, traffic volume and whether a line is used by passenger trains. In addition, railroad personnel must conduct inspections both on foot and with on-track vehicles. Railroads must submit a report to the FRA if an inspected CWR joint is cracked or broken.

Railroads also must incorporate detailed written CWR joint inspection procedures — such as detecting visible cracks or loose or missing bolts — into their track maintenance and employee training plans.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board identified CWR joint bars as the probable cause of freight train derailments in Minot, N.D., and Pico Rivera, Calif., and a passenger train accident near Flora, Miss. The board recommended the FRA issue the regulation to prevent similar accidents. The administration expects CWR joint inspections to increase 11 percent annually.

“More frequent and detailed inspections will help identify problems early and prevent hazardous situations from developing,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement.

On Dec. 2, 2005, an interim FRA rule on CWR joint inspections took effect.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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