Monday, May 10, 2010

FRA seeks input on HSR track, vehicle standards

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The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend two existing rules, “Track Safety Standards” and “Passenger Equipment Safety Standards,” specifically, those sections applicable to high speed and high cant deficiency train operations. FRA said it is modifying the existing rules “in order to promote the safe interaction of rail vehicles with the track over which they operate.”

FRA’s proposed changes “would revise existing limits for vehicle response to track perturbations and add new limits as well,” the agency published in The Federal Register. “The proposal accounts for a range of vehicle types that are currently used and may likely be used on future high speed or high cant deficiency rail operations, or both. The proposal is based on the results of simulation studies designed to identify track geometry irregularities associated with unsafe wheel/ rail forces and accelerations, thorough reviews of vehicle qualification and revenue service test data, and consideration of international practices.”

FRA has identified several “key issues” for the rulemaking based on “research allowing [us] to gather new information with which to evaluate the safety of high speed and high cant deficiency rail operations. FRA decided to address these issues with the assistance of RSAC (Rail Safety Advisory Committee). . . . This NPRM was developed to address a number of the concerns raised and issues discussed during Task Force and Working Group meetings. The Task Force recognized that high speed track safety standards are based on the principle that, to ensure safety, the interaction of the vehicles and the track over which they operate must be considered within a systems approach that provides for specific limits for vehicle response to track perturbation(s). From the outset, the Task Force strove to develop revisions that would 1) serve as practical standards with sound physical and mathematical bases; 2) account for a range of vehicle types that are currently used and may likely be used on future high speed or high cant deficiency rail operations, or both; and 3) not present an undue burden on railroads.”

The NPRM addresses 1) qualification requirements for high speed or high cant deficiency operations, or both; 2) acceleration and wheel/rail force safety limits; 3) inspection, monitoring, and maintenance requirements; and 4) track geometry limits for high speed operations. It will attempt to establish 1) necessary safety limits for wheel profile and truck equalization; 2) consistent requirements for high cant deficiency operations covering all track classes; and 3) additional track geometry requirements for cant deficiencies greater than 5 inches. The NPRM was also attempt to 1) resolve and reconcile inconsistencies between Track Safety Standards and Passenger Equipment Safety Standards, and between the lower- and higher-speed Track Safety Standards.”

“Written comments must be received by July 9, 2010,” FRA said. “Comments received after that date will be considered to the extent possible without incurring additional expense or delay. FRA anticipates being able to resolve this rulemaking without a public, oral hearing. However, if FRA receives a specific request for a public, oral hearing prior to June 9, 2010, one will be scheduled and FRA will publish a supplemental notice in the Federal Register to inform interested parties of the date, time, and location of any such hearing.”

To access the complete NPRM in The Federal Register, CLICK HERE.