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FRA to launch program aimed at preventing train accidents in 'hot spot' areas

By March, the Federal Railroad Administration will begin targeting inspections at safety “hot spots” under a new program developed as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Rail Safety Action Plan.

FRA officials will use train accident data to identify railroads and states that administration officials believe pose safety concerns. Federal inspectors will focus efforts in areas “where safety issues are most likely to arise so they can be corrected before a serious train accident occurs,” said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta in a prepared statement.

During the next few months, the FRA also will deploy two new track inspection vehicles to triple the number of track miles inspected each year; propose a new federal rule to address common human errors that lead to train accidents, such as improperly aligned switches; and begin researching train operator fatigue, near misses and the strength of tank cars carrying hazardous materials.

Since launching the national action plan in May 2005, the administration has completed pilot projects to test systems designed to identify small cracks in rail joints, monitor switch positions in non-signaled territory, and provide timely haz-mat information to emergency responders.

“We have made solid progress on the plan in just nine months,” said Mineta.

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More News from 1/26/2006