Monday, June 17, 2013

FRA committee OKs HSR crashworthiness standards

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The Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) voted unanimously on implementing new crashworthiness performance standards for next-generation passenger high speed rail (HSR) equipment that will operate in the U.S.

The move "is another important step in advancing high speed and intercity passenger rail in America," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This vote brings us closer to new jobs and manufacturing opportunities to make high-speed rail equipment for use here at home and abroad." The committee vote occurred Thursday, July 13, 2013.

The standards, which FRA is developing now before they are published later this year in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, will provide baseline safety requirements for next-generation rail equipment that would travel up to speeds of 220 mph on high-speed rail tracks, while providing the flexibility to operate with existing freight and passenger systems up to speeds of 125 mph. Once finalized through the FRA's rulemaking process, the new standards would be employed along the Northeast Corridor and in California, regions both designated for HSR service.

FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo said the "action by RSAC is a continuation of FRA's move away from prescriptive regulations towards more performance-based regulatory environment." He added. "I'd like to commend all members of RSAC for advancing these standards forward. They will better align our approach to passenger safety and the use of rail equipment with the rest of the world. "

The proposed standards are intended to provide an alternative approach to existing railcar crashworthiness requirements that have influenced the type of passenger equipment built and used in the U.S. market for nearly a century. The proposed standards 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.

Since 2009, members of the RSAC have undertaken a review of existing crashworthiness requirements in order to identify a new, technology-neutral, performance-based approach that employs modern and advanced design techniques, such as crash energy management. Consensus on the proposed standards was reached by the RSAC Engineering Task Force, which is made up of a cross section of the domestic and international railcar supply industry, including 12 railcar manufacturers.