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FTA issues safety advisory on third-rail traction power


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on Monday issued a new safety advisory to collect information from state safety oversight agencies (SSOAs) regarding the condition and safety performance of third-rail traction power electrification systems.

A shot of WMATA's third-rail system
Photo: WMATA

As part of the measure, the FTA requests that SSOAs provide a brief description of the third-rail contact system and related components at transit agencies under their jurisdiction, along with a summary of major changes or upgrades made to the system in the last decade.

Additionally, SSOAs need to disclose the total number of times that a fire department responded to smoke conditions related to the third-rail system. These agencies must complete the FTA's request within 90 days.

In recent months, the FTA has investigated several safety events related to traction power electrification system failures, including smoke incidents, explosions, intense fires, damage to rail-car propulsion equipment and exacerbated deterioration of poor track conditions, agency officials said in a press release.

For example, earlier this month the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority experienced an arcing insulator explosion and debris fire at its Federal Center Station, along with another smoke incident at its Friendship Heights Station in late April. And in March, Bay Area Rapid Transit needed to shut down a section of track due to the damage it was causing to propulsion equipment on rail cars.

Nationwide, 13 transit-rail systems operate and maintain third-rail traction power electrification systems.

The safety performance of these kinds of systems can deteriorate with age, inattention, and exposure to environmental conditions such as water or moisture with contaminating materials, FTA officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/18/2016